New Guidelines
for Treating
Childhood Obesity

Pediatric nurse practitioner examines new approach to a growing problem

For the first time in 15 years, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued clinical practice guidelines for pediatricians treating overweight and obese children. Obesity in the United States has reached near-epidemic proportions, and not just in adults: More than 14.4 million Americans under age 18 are considered obese, which brings significant physical and emotional consequences.

Katherine Prihoda, clinical associate professor

Katherine Prihoda, clinical associate professor

“We live in a society where everyone prefers a quick fix,” said Katherine Prihoda, clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing in Camden. “Unfortunately, obesity does not have one.”

The AAP’s guidelines employ a community-based mindset. The "Whole Child" approach includes counseling, lifestyle coaching, behavioral modification and on occasion, medication and gastric surgery. Whole Child therapy seeks to get the entire family involved in creating changes that can lead to healthier lives.

The guidelines for treatment address the urgency of the crisis. Research-based evidence point to proven strategies focusing on intensive health behavior and lifestyle programs. These strategies call for nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and social workers to collaborate in creating individualized plans for a child’s situation.

“Clinicians need to effectively address these issues moving forward to make a change in the obesity rates," Prihoda said. "The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend screening children for obesity and offering prevention or treatment services.”

The guidelines take many factors into consideration, including economic challenges, race-based disparity, and available health resources .One thing Prihoda has learned in her 20 years as a pediatric nurse practitioner is that weight is not a clear-cut medical problem with one universal solution.

"Children must be evaluated individually to understand all the factors—including diet and exercise—that contribute to obesity,” Prihoda said.

The complete guidelines can be found on the AAP website.

Creative Design: Beatris Santos

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