National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September Advances in Evidence-Based Treatment, But Barriers to Care Remain

Published 8:30 am Sunday, September 3, 2023

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ROCKVILLE, Md.Sept. 1, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — New guidelines for the treatment of childhood obesity published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2023 assert early identification and management are critical to addressing the disease. Moreover, the guidelines endorse the significant advances in evidence-based approaches, including intensive lifestyle modifications, anti-obesity medications, and metabolic and bariatric surgery. However, significant barriers to care remain, including equitable access and coverage for the care of children and adolescents living with obesity. The Obesity Society (TOS) recognizes these challenges noting that more work needs to be done to combat the disease as it marks National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September.

“This month we recognize the disease of childhood obesity. Huge strides have been made in offering a wide range of effective treatment options to children and adolescents with obesity. Despite this, the medical community continues to struggle with challenges, including limited access to care, long-waiting lists, poor insurance coverage and societal stigma surrounding the disease,” said Justin Ryder, PhD, chair of the Society’s Pediatric Obesity Section, associate professor of surgery and pediatrics at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and vice chair of research for the Department of Surgery at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

On Jan. 9, 2023, the AAP published its first clinical practice guideline on the treatment of childhood obesity, updating expert recommendations from 2007. The new recommendations emphasize the need for a comprehensive approach that includes assessing risk factors, evaluating for comorbidities and offering treatment options using shared decision making with the child and family. The guidelines recommend four treatment options: motivational interviewing, intensive health behavior and lifestyle intervention, anti-obesity medications, and metabolic and bariatric surgery. These treatments are meant to be used alone or in combination to combat this complex chronic disease, and watchful waiting with less intensive treatments should be avoided. The need to confront bias and stigma is emphasized as a potential barrier to access to care. 

TOS supports the evidence-based view of obesity presented in the AAP guidelines. The Obesity Society’s Pediatric Obesity Treatment Task Force emphasizes that pediatric obesity is a disease. Experts note that early intervention can reduce the risk of persistent obesity as well as end organ damage from long-standing comorbidities. In fact, treating obesity also treats these comorbidities.  

“By addressing childhood obesity head on, we are not only treating comorbidities but preventing the development of chronic conditions that are related to obesity such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. We have the opportunity to improve the overall health, well-being and quality of life for so many children at risk for these medical conditions,” said Daniel Hsia, MD, a member of the Society’s Pediatric Obesity Treatment Task Force, and associate professor, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, La.   

During September, TOS will highlight its patient information pages for health care providers on its website. Social media posts will be featured throughout the month on the Society’s Facebook and Twitter pages. TOS member communications will feature pediatric obesity sessions scheduled for the Society’s annual meeting at ObesityWeek®. A virtual thematic journal will feature a select number of articles from the Society’s flagship journal, Obesity.  

More than 14 million children and adolescents are impacted by obesity, according to the AAP. Despite this statistic, TOS’s pediatric obesity experts remain hopeful that the new AAP guidelines and initiatives such as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month will help increase awareness and reduce the number of children impacted by obesity.

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The Obesity Society (TOS) is the leading organization of scientists and health professionals devoted to understanding and reversing the epidemic of obesity and its adverse health, economic and societal effects. Combining the perspective of researchers, clinicians, policymakers and patients, TOS promotes innovative research, education and evidence-based clinical care to improve the health and well-being of all people with obesity. For more information, visit