Battling obesity in teens: Groundbreaking guidelines for children

More than 14 million children and teenagers in the U.S. are living with obesity – it’s a chronic disease associated with a lifetime of health risks. That’s why for the first time ever, The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, has released groundbreaking guidelines on treating children battling obesity.

At a time when Harley Boaz should be having the time of her life, her life was literally being put at risk – at 16, Harley weighed 285 pounds.

“I was diagnosed with hypertension. I was pre-diabetic. I had high cholesterol,” Harley says.

A new study by the CDC warns that type 2 diabetes will surge 700 percent in people under the age of 20 in the next 40 years. New guidelines by the AAP are hoping to revolutionize the way we approach childhood obesity.

“It says we should offer all of our treatments as soon as a patient is eligible for them,” mentions a pediatric endocrinologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Jennifer Sprague.

Dr. Sprague says, for the first time, doctors have a roadmap on how to treat these children.

“It highlights that a ‘watch and wait’ strategy is not effective,” she adds.

The AAP guidelines include evidence-based recommendations such as motivational interviewing to behavior treatments and pharmaceuticals like the newly FDA-approved Wegovy – the first once-weekly weight loss injection approved for kids 12 and up.

Dr. Sprague tells Ivanhoe, “They can make a really huge difference in patients’ lives.”

Studies show that 95 percent of teens with type 2 diabetes who had bariatric surgery no longer had it three years following surgery, and 74 percent normalized their high blood pressure.

“I think there’s always hope that if you treat this disease, you’re gonna lessen the long-term consequences,” Dr. Sprague expresses.

The new guidelines also urge pediatricians to take into account genetics, physiology, socioeconomic factors and the environment – stressing obesity is not just about weight, it’s a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.

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