After 15 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its standard guidelines for treating childhood obesity, a health issue that affects over 14 million children in America. If left untreated, obesity can cause significant physical and mental health changes. Previous practices for treating obesity, such as “watchful waiting” or delaying treatment, were aimed to let children outgrow or overcome obesity on their own, but they have proven to be ineffective and worsen the condition.
The AAP’s guidelines now recommend behavioral and lifestyle changes as prevention for child obesity, as well as medications and surgery if needed. The AAP’s guidelines stress the importance of addressing obesity sooner rather than later, and they recommend anti-obesity drugs for those as young as 12 to eliminate future health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Additionally, the AAP emphasizes that weight-loss surgery is a safe and effective option for children.
The AAP aims to change the assumption that obesity is caused by a lack of self-control and a lack of discipline. In fact, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center has proven that biological factors, such as genetics and hormones, contribute the most to causing obesity since they are responsible for how our bodies process, store and use energy from the food we eat.
Additionally, the AAP states that the surrounding environment plays a big role in one’s health. If someone does not have access to healthy foods or safe and open areas to exercise in, it is significantly more difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Part of the guideline’s solutions focuses on obesity prevention in the form of funneling funds into public health improvements, such as safe and walkable neighborhoods, easier access to healthy foods and initiatives encouraging schools to support healthy lifestyles for young children.