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Medical Community Tackles Childhood Obesity

by Diane Lofshult on Oct 01, 2003

As IDEA continues to spread the word about ways fitness professionals can reduce the incidence of childhood obesity, the medical community is also banding together around this concern. In August, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) unveiled a new policy statement titled Prevention of Pediatric Overweight and Obesity, to help pediatricians identify and prevent serious changes in body mass index (BMI) in their young patients.

“I don’t think we have a choice but to find ways to deal with it,” policy coauthor Marc Jacobson, a pediatrician at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New York City, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “It’s not just pediatricians who can solve this; it’s going to be the whole society.”

According to the AAP policy statement, the number of overweight and obese children in America has doubled in the last 20 years. Currently, more than 15 percent of those ages 6 to 19 are at or above the 95th percentile for BMI. Although most pediatricians routinely check youngsters for height and weight, few specifically use BMI as a monitoring tool.

Here are the new AAP policy’s primary recommendations:

  • Identify and track patients at risk because of family history, birth weight and socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural or environmental factors.

  • Calculate and plot BMI on a yearly basis for all children and adolescent patients.

  • Using BMI as a measure, identify the rate of weight gain relative to linear growth.

  • Encourage and support mothers who choose to breast-feed.

  • Advise parents to promote healthy eating patterns in all family members.

  • Routinely promote physical activity, including unstructured play time.

  • Recommend that children limit their television and video watching to no more than 2 hours per day.

The entire policy statement can be found in the August issue of Pediatrics, the scientific journal of the AAP.

On a related note, the August issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine was devoted entirely to the subject of childhood obesity. At least four separate studies in the journal’s theme issue focused on the ways in which physical activity can help reduce obesity levels in kids. Chief among the various researchers’ findings were the following:

  • Interventions to increase physical activity among high-school students should target adolescents of all shapes and sizes and may be best achieved by requiring physical education in schools or after-school sporting programs. (The majority of U.S. schools no longer offer PE.)

  • Organized, noncompetitive, leisure-time programs, such as gardening clubs and adventure camps, can foster higher physical activity levels in children in middle schools.

  • Rounding up support from friends, family and caring adults might enhance the efficacy of interventions designed to reduce sedentary behavior in adolescent girls.

  • Building confidence in adolescent girls plays a big role in encouraging them to engage in physical activity.

  • For details on these and other studies on childhood obesity, see Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 157 (8).

IDEA Health Fitness Source, Volume 2004, Issue 9

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About the Author

Diane Lofshult

Diane Lofshult IDEA Author/Presenter

Diane Lofshult is an award-winning freelance author who specializes in nutrition and weight management topics. She is the founder of In Other Words, an editorial consulting firm based in Solana Beach, California. Reach her at