A new set of guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics has advocates for children’s health urging early, intensive medical treatment for youth struggling with obesity. Experts widely recognize that “watchful waiting” to see if children outgrow the problem is ineffective, and that left untreated, obesity can lead to lifelong health issues. The guidance sets ages at which kids and teens should be offered medical treatments, including drugs and surgery, in addition to diet, exercise, and other lifestyle interventions.
Recent breakthroughs with medications, such as the weekly injection Wegovy, offer new promise to children aged 12 and above, as a New England Journal of Medicine study found it led to an average BMI reduction of 16%. However, such treatment can be hard for some to access due to cost and recent drug shortages.
While research on long-term effects of such drugs is necessary, experts in the field of pediatric obesity are agreeing that early and intensive treatment is the most effective path to treating and preventing obesity. Dr. Stephanie Byrne of Cedars Sinai Medical Center suggests that diet and exercise may not be enough for a large portion of struggling teens, emphasizing the importance of prompt action for children already suffering from obesity.