AAP updates child obesity treatment to include medication, surgery for some

If left untreated, this chronic disease can lead to cardiovascular problems and diabetes

In the United States, more than 14.4 million children and teens live with obesity, along with the stigma attached. If left untreated, this chronic disease can lead to cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

According to the 2020 State of Childhood Obesity report, 14.9% of Georgia kids ages 10-17 are obese.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states obesity “can be treated successfully with the recognition that complex genetic, physiologic, socioeconomic and environmental factors are at play.”

With that in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued updated guidance in 15 years for treating childhood obesity, including — for the first time — medication and surgery.

“Weight is a sensitive topic for most of us, and children and teens are especially aware of the harsh and unfair stigma that comes with being affected by it,” Sarah Hampl, MD, a lead author of the guideline and chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity, said in an AAP press release.

Recommendations for treating kids ages 2 and older are included in “Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Obesity,” published in the February edition of Pediatrics.

“Research tells us that we need to take a close look at families — where they live, their access to nutritious food, health care and opportunities for physical activity — as well as other factors that are associated with health, quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Our kids need the medical support, understanding and resources we can provide within a treatment plan that involves the whole family,” Hampl added.

The new recommendations look at a child’s health, family, community and resources before recommending motivational interviewing, intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment, pharmacotherapy, and metabolic and bariatric surgery.

“The goal is to help patients make changes in lifestyle, behaviors or environment in a way that is sustainable and involves families in decision-making at every step of the way,” said Sandra Hassink, MD, an author of the guideline and vice chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity.

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