New Child Obesity Guidelines as Rates Accelerate

A scale in a doctor's office

Even before COVID-19, obesity was considered such an important indicator of child health that Nationwide Children’s Hospital considered it one of its Pediatric Vital Signs – or measures of overall community child wellness, along with kindergarten readiness, teen suicide rates and others.

But pediatric obesity rates accelerated in the early stages of the pandemic. While they’ve come closer to pre-pandemic rates in recent months, disparities by race, ethnicity and income remain.

In the wake of all of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics has introduced new child obesity treatment guidelines for the first time in 15 years. Two Nationwide Children’s physicians, and one parent of a Nationwide Children’s patient, helped formulate them.

The newly released clinical practice guidelines highlight that fact that there is more evidence than ever that obesity treatment is safe and effective.

“(O)besity is a common, chronic disease that results from numerous complex and interacting factors,” said Ihuoma Eneli, MD, MS, FAAP, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the guidelines. “Our recent understanding of the genetic, biological, social and economic determinants of health risk factors of obesity clearly tells us that this common chronic disease cannot be overcome with willpower alone. A good analogy is that our genes and biology set the table and numerous other factors singly or in combination interact with the setting to decide what meal is served.”

Among the guidelines are recommendations about when health providers should explore weight loss medications and metabolic and bariatric surgery for teenage patients.

Learn more about the guidelines and the Nationwide Children’s experts who helped developed them at Pediatrics Nationwide.