Docs to Use BMI in Child Obesity Fight
New Policy Puts Pediatricians on Front Lines in Preventing Obesity
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.
Creating a Healthy Home
Melinda Sothern, PhD, co-author of the book Trim Kids
and director of the childhood obesity prevention laboratory at Louisiana State
University, says parents can do little things to create a healthy environment
and encourage physical activity at home. For example:
- Turn on the stereo instead of the TV when you get home.
- While watching TV, have children "do the commercial boogie" and get
active during commercial breaks.
- Enact a 30-minute rule. Take a five-minute break after 30 minutes of
sedentary activities like homework or sitting at the computer.
- Set up an imagination station in the living room or den filled inexpensive
games that require movement, such as a Hula-Hoop, balloons, basketball-type
hoop games, Twister, jump rope, small hand weights, and stretch bands.
"Anything is better than vegging out in front of the
TV," says Sothern. "It doesn't have to be vigorous. If they are up on
their feet, it's three times more calories being burned than when they're
sitting in front of the TV."