Docs to Use BMI in Child Obesity Fight
New Policy Puts Pediatricians on Front Lines in Preventing Obesity
WebMD News Archive
Putting Child Obesity on the Radar Screen continued...
"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
Stopping Obesity Before it Starts
The guidelines, which appear in the August issue of
Pediatrics, emphasize recognizing and addressing the issue of a child's
weight before it gets out of control.
Key recommendations include:
- Identify and track children at risk for becoming overweight due to a family
history of obesity, birth weight, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other
cultural and environmental factors.
- Calculate and plot BMI once a year in all children and adolescents
according to CDC growth charts for age and sex.
- Use changes in BMI to identify excessive weight gain relative to
- Encourage breast feeding. Studies have linked breast feeding to a decrease
in obesity later in life.
- Encourage parents and caregivers to promote healthy eating patterns.
- Routinely promote physical activity, including unstructured play.
- Limit television and video time to a maximum of two hours per day.
Once at-risk children are identified, researchers say
pediatricians should talk to parents about strategies to prevent childhood
"The good news is that for families who see a problem and
are willing to get involved, family-based behavioral interventions can be
effective for many overweight children," says Faith. "Many small
changes have to be implemented, any one strategy by itself probably won't be as
effective as multiple strategies."
Those strategies might include training parents about setting
an example with healthy food choices, decreasing sedentary activities, and
rewarding healthy food choices.