Local Physicians Raising Awareness of New Childhood Obesity Guidelines

Local Physicians Raising Awareness of New Childhood Obesity Guidelines

Thursday, September 14, 2023

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 14, 2023) – For the first time in 15 years, and in response to a rise in childhood obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) officially updated its guidelines on the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity earlier this year. Local physicians are joining the national fight to raise awareness and reduce obesity’s long-lasting impacts on children.

One in seven children are affected by obesity and over 14 million children have obesity, which makes it the nation’s most common chronic pediatric disease. The new guidelines reflect a new understanding of childhood obesity as being the result of many factors, including genetic, cultural, socioeconomic and environmental, and recommend a more proactive approach to preventing obesity by building healthy habits.

Obesity is a complex, common and chronic medical problem with significant health and social consequences. Nationwide, there has been a significant rise in the impact to the pediatric population. In 1965, obesity affected approximately 5% of that population. In 2018, that number was 19%, which is a threefold increase in obesity.

“We start assessing BMI percentiles at age two and we're looking to see if there are concerning trends that we need to address,” said First Physicians Group pediatrician Susan Mihm, MD. “Now that we have these new guidelines, there is a framework so that we can have that discussion about a healthy lifestyle and the prevention of a chronic disease, just like we do other diseases.”

The 2023 guidelines acknowledge that the previous standard of “watchful waiting” is ineffective, and instead recommends earlier intervention, including lifestyle changes, with more intensive treatment available when needed.

Dr. Mihm says the emphasis is really on establishing healthy habits early, which can benefit the entire family. Top tips to families for preventing childhood obesity before it comes a problem include:

  • Establish a healthy relationship with food: Food should not be punishment. Food should not be reward. Food should be nutrition, health and fun.
  • romote healthy sleep: Build a healthy sleep routine, avoiding cups and bottles at bedtime and removing TVs from bedrooms.
  • Reduce screen time: Try creating screen-free zones in the house. Parents must also model good behavior.
  • Increase activity levels: Children should have at least one hour of activity per day, and that doesn't have to be sports or PE at school. It can be going for a walk with the family or the dog. This is also an important opportunity for parents to engage with children and spend quality time together.

Local pediatricians utilize a program called Intensive Health Behavior and Lifestyle Treatment to assist families or adolescents who need a multi-disciplinary approach. This includes nutritional assistance to provide help with meal planning and feedback, emotional therapy for mental well-being, and a medical evaluation to identify any medical problems, such as thyroid issues, that could be contributing. A physician will also evaluate and manage comorbidities such as elevated lipids or elevated blood sugars or prediabetes.

The new treatment guidelines also include medications for eligible adolescents, as well as surgical options for teens with severe obesity.

To learn more about the new AAP guidelines and how pediatricians are helping local families with prevention strategies, view Dr. Mihm’s episode of SMH HealthCasts.

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of care, with more than 1 million patient visits each year across its 2 hospital campuses, freestanding ER, and network of outpatient care centers. Its flagship 901-bed Sarasota hospital has been consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best, with superior patient outcomes and comprehensive network of outpatient. The public health system opened its second acute-care hospital, SMH-Venice, in November 2021. For information, visit smh.com.