Hide Hand Seek

Severe Childhood Obesity: Hiding in Plain Sight

The lead article this week in the New England Journal of Medicine by Asheley Skinner and colleagues brings the impact of severe childhood obesity into a crisp focus. While others are debating whether childhood obesity rates are dropping or have simply peaked, these researchers are focusing on the toll this disease is already taking on way too many children.

Analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Skinner has found dramatically elevated risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases in children and young adults with severe (class 3) obesity. Unhealthy cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and hemoglobin A1c (an indicator for diabetes) were anywhere from two to seven times more likely in children and young adults with severe obesity as compared to children who had excess weight, but not obesity.

Growth in Childhood Obesity RatesPut these facts together with the dramatic rise in the rates of severe childhood obesity and you can begin to appreciate the magnitude of unmet medical needs for these children and young adults. Centers that are equipped to care for these children are too few and have resources that are far too limited to meet the need.

For these young people, prevention is needed, but not the kind that everyone is spending their time on. The prevention that’s needed is prevention of the progression of this chronic disease. Call it secondary prevention, call it tertiary prevention, or call it obesity treatment — whatever you like.

Just get serious, get the resources, and get it done.

Click here to read the study in NEJM and here to read more about the gap in caring for kids with severe obesity.

Hide Hand Seek, photograph © Môsieur J. / flickr

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October 1, 2015

3 Responses to “Severe Childhood Obesity: Hiding in Plain Sight”

  1. October 01, 2015 at 3:32 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Yup!

  2. October 02, 2015 at 10:13 am, Michael D said:

    Congrats for pointing out what is NOT being done. Now WE must focus on what we MUST do. Tell us now- (harshly if you must).

  3. October 02, 2015 at 9:32 pm, Ted said:

    Michael, thanks for asking. My simple thought is that we need to provide the best evidence-based care that we can to kids who are living with severe obesity. That starts with putting and end to shaming them and their families. It continues with making the care that good pediatric obesity clinics can provide available to every child who is living with severe obesity. And then we need to build an adequate evidence base for better treatment options that will enable these children to grow into healthy adulthood. But that’s just my best guess. Others may have better ideas of what is needed.