A federal panel of health experts has issued new guidelines urging doctors to screen children from age 6 to 18 for obesity.
The new recommendations, which will be published in the journal of Pediatrics in February, are currently available on the Pediatrics website.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated guidelines that were issued in 2005 when the group said that there was insufficient evidence to recommend routine obesity screening for children. Dr. Ned Calonge, task force chairman and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health in Denver, explained that a series of randomized clinical trials has shown that certain therapies are effective in helping children battle obesity.
The screenings should be done using height and weight measurements to calculate body mass index (BMI). Children are considered obese if their BMI is above the 95th percentile for their gender and age. If they fall into this category, the task force recommends that physicians refer them to weight management programs. These should include weekly meetings, and should offer counseling for weight loss, physical activity recommendations, and goal setting.
The weight loss programs have been shown to be effective, but they’re expensive and scarce. Calonge said that while it’s true that at present there may not be enough programs, the new findings could help increase them, encourage families to take action, and may even remove a cost barrier for insurance coverage because insurers will no longer be able to refuse coverage based on the claim that treatment doesn’t work.
In issuing the new guidelines, the panel evaluated evidence from over 20 studies which included more than a 1,000 children since 2005. The data showed that intensive treatment can help children lose a significant amount of weight which reduces risks of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a number of health problems related to obesity.
Source: Huffington Post