The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a new policy statement entitled “Identifying and Treating Eating Disorders,” designed to detect and allay weight-related issues in young children. The statement, published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, enlists the aid of primary care pediatricians who “are in the unique position to detect the onset of eating disorders and stop their progression at the earliest stages of the illness” in their young charges.
Like cases of obesity, eating disorders are on the rise among children and adolescents, with instances steadily increasing since the 1950s. According to the AAP, 0.5 percent of adolescent girls in the United States have anorexia nervosa, while 1 to 5 percent of their counterparts meet the criteria for bulimia nervosa. In a sign of the times, AAP estimates that 5 to 10 percent of all eating disorders occur in males. And these statistics don’t even take into account the growing number of kids who show symptoms of the less severe “disordered eating,” which manifests itself in abnormal eating patterns and negative attitudes about food.
The new AAP policy recommends that pediatricians
- become knowledgeable about the early signs and symptoms of eating disorders and related behaviors
- be aware of the ways that adults can foster overaggressive dieting
- help kids build their self-esteem, even when clinically treating their weight problems
- know the screening and counseling guidelines for eating disorders
- play a role in primary prevention through office visits and community and school interventions