Warm Enough?

NEJM: Childhood Obesity Prevention Won’t Be Enough

Facts are stubborn. And today, one of the stubborn facts of obesity is a bit more clear. Prevention alone is not enough. Late yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, some leading advocates for childhood obesity prevention wrote:

A narrow focus solely on preventing childhood obesity will not avert potential future health damage that may be induced by the ongoing obesity epidemic.

57% of Today’s Children Will Have Obesity as Adults

The research comes from Harvard’s School of Public Health. Researchers built computer models for the growth of children into adults. They estimated how many of today’s children will have obesity when they reach the age of 35. And the answer is harsh. Given current levels of childhood obesity, most of today’s children (57%) will have obesity when they’re adults.

Who will beat those odds? Based on typical growth patterns, only children who already have a healthy weight will. But even so, many of them will grow up to have obesity.

A False Choice Between Prevention and Treatment

Just a few years ago, the senior author of the current study, Steven Gortmaker, wrote that “primary prevention of childhood obesity should be the remedy of choice.” And even now, he’s still telling reporters that prevention is “critically important.” Likewise, lead author Zach Ward told Time, “We really need to start thinking about really scaling up prevention efforts.”

That singular focus on prevention leaves us puzzled. Must we choose between prevention and treatment? Instead, can’t we find a place for both in our strategies to address obesity? Don’t children with obesity deserve consideration?

From where we sit, the answer is obvious. If prevention alone is not enough, we must do more. We need better care for youth who already have obesity. And we must ask for better evidence that our efforts are making a difference.

The health of future generations depends upon it.

Click here for the study in NEJM, here for more from Time, and here for more from MedPage Today.

Warm Enough? Photograph © Andrew Vargas / flickr

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November 30, 2017

2 Responses to “NEJM: Childhood Obesity Prevention Won’t Be Enough”

  1. November 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm, Allen Browne said:

    I am relatively speechless. How can there be a question about the value of both – prevention and treatment – while anybody still has the disease? I and a growing group of primary care providers are working hard on how to deliver effective treatment to children with obesity. But there cannot be a dichotomy – both prevention and treatment are important.

    We have to look honestly at the prevention efforts so far and ask what they have done to the rates of obesity in children. We have to carefully and with pooling of data and transparency deliver the advanced tools available to us now to help the children and their families.

    There is much work to do, but the children are worth it and our future demands it.

    • November 30, 2017 at 1:09 pm, Ted said:

      Amen, Allen!