Sound Health: Bloomington pediatrician calls for a team approach to combat child obesity
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines encouraging pediatricians to offer treatments earlier and at a higher intensity to children struggling with obesity.
Pediatricians should be offering treatment to children ages 6 and above, but can begin treatment for those even as young as age 2, based on the academy's new guidance.
Dr. David Milligan, a pediatrician at Carle BroMenn Outpatient Center in Bloomington, said he has seen an increase of childhood obesity in his patients recently, especially after the effects of the pandemic.
“Research has shown that obesity did increase during the COVID pandemic for many reasons,” Milligan said. “You have gyms closing down, access to good food is limited, and stress and mental health involved with that as well.”
Finding a solution to help a child with their battle with obesity varies from patient to patient for a list of reasons.
“What we are learning is that there are genetic, physiological, socio-economic, and environmental factors that really play into this and that’s why it’s really a case by case basis to look at someone’s individual situation to see what we can help with,” Milligan said.
While the approach to help a child varies, Milligan said that it is generally most helpful to have a sustainable approach where small changes are gradually made overtime, instead of all at once.
Milligan also emphasized that a child is not alone on their journey, and the path to help with obesity is a group effort.
“This is really not just a child or adolescent focused plan, it really is a team approach,” Milligan said. “It’s the family, the school, it’s us helping out as pediatricians or physicians to help out, and parents modeling behavior has been shown in research to have a better impact, and that includes modeling both, exercise and diet.”
Milligan said that the idea of “watchful waiting,” or prolonging treatment to see if a child will grow into their weight, is often not the case.
As medicine is evolving and changing, there is now a weekly injection available for children 12 and older to help with weight loss.
“This is something that I think as pediatricians we will need to explore and learn more about before we prescribe it for patients,” Milligan said. “I think the difficulty we are going to face is coverage for the medication.”
Milligan encourages parents to truly listen and not feel offended when their children’s doctor begins the conversation regarding obesity.