Docs to Use BMI in Child Obesity Fight
New Policy Puts Pediatricians on Front Lines in Preventing Obesity
Aug. 4, 2003 -- Forget about pounds, inches, and percentiles,
parents may soon be hearing a lot more about their child's body mass index
(BMI) from their pediatrician as part of a new effort to combat childhood
New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) call for pediatricians and parents to take more active roles in
preventing and treating childhood obesity in ways that go beyond standard
yearly height and weight measurements.
It's the first policy statement from the organization
specifically to address the growing problem of obesity among children. It calls
for using changes in a child's BMI over time as an indicator of the child's
risk of becoming overweight or obese.
BMI as Prevention Tool
"We're trying to encourage them to not wait until children
are already overweight, but to see trends that are concerning before they get
to a problem point," says researcher Nancy Krebs, MD, chair of the
nutrition committee of the AAP.
"Sometimes doctors think they can just look at a child and
say whether or not they are overweight. The BMI provides us with a tool to see
if child's weight gain is excessive or appropriate relative to their height
BMI is a measurement of weight in relationship to height that
is widely used to define overweight and obesity. A child with a BMI between the
85th and 95th percentile for age and sex is considered to
be at risk of overweight, and a BMI above the 95th percentile is
considered overweight or obese.
According to national statistics, the number of overweight and
obese children and teens in the U.S. has doubled in the last 20 years, and more
than 15% of children 6-19 years old are now considered overweight or obese.
The report also calls on parents to promote healthy eating as
well as encourage physical activity through unstructured playtime and limiting
TV and video time to less than two hours per day.
Putting Child Obesity on the Radar Screen
Experts say many parents may not recognize or accept the
potential risk of their child becoming overweight, and this new policy will
help raise awareness of the issue.
"There are many parents of children who are overweight or
at risk for overweight who don't necessarily see it as an issue," says
obesity researcher Myles Faith, PhD, who works in the weight and eating
disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
"Simply making families, physicians, and health-care
professionals more aware won't solve the problem, but it does help put it on
radar screen of some families."
Researchers say the health consequences of the obesity epidemic
among American youth are serious. Overweight children are likely to become
overweight and obese adults, and the medical problems associated with childhood
obesity can affect adult health and increase the risk of heart disease and
In addition, children who are overweight or obese are also more
likely to suffer from mental health problems like depression and low