Updated American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for treatment of obesity urge prompt use of behavior therapy and lifestyle changes, and say surgery and medications should be used for some young people.
The guidelines, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, are the first comprehensive update to the academy’s obesity treatment guidelines in 15 years. They provide guidance for treatment of children as young as 2 and through the teen years.
The guidelines acknowledge that obesity is complex, and tied to access to nutritious foods and health care, among other factors.
Treatment for younger children should focus on behavior and lifestyle treatment for the entire family, including nutrition support and increased physical activity. For children 12 and older, use of weight loss medications is appropriate, in addition to health behavior therapy and lifestyle treatment, AAP says. Teens 13 and older with severe obesity should be evaluated for surgery, according to the guidelines.
“There is no evidence that ‘watchful waiting’ or delayed treatment is appropriate for children with obesity,” Dr. Sandra Hassink, an author of the guideline and vice chair of AAP’s Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity, said in a statement. “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.”
AAP says more than 14.4 million children and teens live with obesity. Children with overweight or obesity are at higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For children and teens, overweight is defined as a body mass index at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile; obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile.
The new guidelines do not discuss obesity prevention; it will be addressed in another AAP policy statement to come, it says.