Medications and surgery are being recommended for children as young as 12 in order to fight off obesity “early and aggressively,” according to new guidelines released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Previously, the practice of “watchful waiting” was applied to see if a child would grow out of their obesity but “Waiting doesn’t work,” according to Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, who co-authored the first guidance on childhood obesity in 15 years from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Associated Press reports.
“What we see is a continuation of weight gain and the likelihood that they’ll have (obesity) in adulthood,” Eneli continued. Eneli is the director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital located in Columbus, Ohio. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus’ Childrens Hospital has spent 3.3 billion in recent additions to its complex.
The guidance contains specific diets, exercises and other behavior and lifestyle interventions, as well as specific ages at which specific treatments can and should be offered.
Medications for kids as young as 12 and surgery for kids as young as 13 are now the recommendations in order to stave off the worsening obesity problem that affects more than 14.4 million young people in the US and is responsible for myriad health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
The goal is for the new guidelines to change the way that obesity is viewed, so that its not just seen as “a personal problem, maybe a failure of the person’s diligence,” said Dr. Sandra Hassink, another co-author of the guidance.
“This is not different than you have asthma and now we have an inhaler for you,” she added.
The guidelines also take into account that obesity is often affected by biological factors, and that it’s not just a lifestyle problem.
Obesity affects close to 20 percent of US children and teens, and around 42 percent of adults.
The new guidelines come at the same time as a new obesity drug for children is approved for use.
Wegovy, a weekly injection for use in children ages 12 and older, has been shown in trials to be efficient for teenages, reducing their BMI by around 16 percent on average. The drug affects the communication between the brain and the stomach, enabling the user to feel more full than they otherwise would be.