Last Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Health experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended hands-on medical intervention to treat childhood obesity for the first time. New guidelines from the organization will not ask healthcare providers to only notice or delay the treatment of children who are dealing with obesity. Childhood obesity is identified as a body mass index of more than 30. Under new recommendations, health experts now highlight a wide range of alternatives such as surgery or medication, and dietary and lifestyle counseling for obese children who are 12 years old and above. Previous criteria for the treatment of childhood obesity were known as ‘watchful waiting’ which was based on the hope that a child’s BMI (Body mass index) would organically come down as they grew. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a step-based method, where healthcare providers would steadily move from observation to treating the issue. However, these new guidelines for childhood obesity treatment are the first clinical practice strategies to tactfully manage obesity treatments. One of the authors who have drafted new guidelines Sandra Hassink has said that there is no data available to prove that ‘watchful waiting’ or delay in treatment is suitable for children who suffer from obesity. Sandra Hassink is also the vice chairperson of the AAP Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity. She has said that the aim is to support patients make changes in behaviors, lifestyle, or environment in a way that is justifiable and allow families to intervene in the decision-making process during the treatment.

The extensive guidelines include a swarm of available therapies that depend on a kid’s age and other scenarios. Experts have said that kids who are below 2 years are not eligible for obesity treatment. For young kids, healthcare providers can try options that include intensive health behavior and lifestyle therapies such as regular counseling sessions for children and their families for more than a 3 to 12-month timeframe. For kids who are 12 years old and above, healthcare providers are now directed to deliberate drug treatment as a primary alternative. Children who are 13 years old and above can also be considered for bariatric surgery as a potential therapy. While drafting new recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken suggestions from multiple studies that show the advantages of these therapies overshadow any possible risks. Patients who have been treated with bariatric surgery appear to be at a reduced risk of having obesity-related complications such as type 2 diabetes and have a longer life expectancy as compared to those who have not undergone bariatric surgery. Experts have claimed that long-term health advantages have been witnessed among teenage children who have undergone bariatric surgery especially.

Health experts from the AAP have said that a new class of drugs known as incretins, as well has prominently changed the scenario of obesity therapies in the past few years. They have claimed that these medications combined with diet and regular physical exercise can lead to far greater weight loss on average than the majority of other treatment options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prolonged the approval of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, which is the first medication of this new generation, for children who are above 12 years old. The clinical data of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy shows that teenage children have been found to have similar progress in BMI as adults. The supply shortages that inundated the rollout of the drug since its regulatory approval in June 2021 might end soon as the company recently announced that they might have a stable supply from now onwards.  This drug costs more than $1,000 a month. New guidelines from the AAP have arrived at a time when there is an increase in the rate of obesity in the US among children. Although new recommendations particularly do not state how can obesity be prevented among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has assured to announce separate guidelines for that in the future.