December 1, 2015
While recent national studies suggest that the overall rates of obesity have plateaued or even declined, obesity remains a pervasive public health problem. Substantial disparities continue to exist for AfricanAmericans and Hispanics. About a quarter of 2-to-5 year olds and one-third of schoolage children are overweight or obese, and 30 percent of low-income preschoolers. Also, obesity rates are twice as high for Native American preschoolers than for white or Asian preschoolers. Also alarming, as Lutherville, Md., pediatrician Alan Lake noted at a recent Grand Rounds, recent longitudinal studies show children who are overweight or obese in elementary school will likely remain overweight or obese in high school. And obesity-related signs of adult-onset diseases like coronary artery disease and diabetes are showing up earlier and earlier. The take-home message is that obesity has evolved into a resilient enemy of children and adolescents, one in which pediatricians will have to intervene earlier and earlier. “Treating kids who are 9, 10 or 11 years old who are already obese is not going to be particularly effective,” says Lake. So, what can pediatricians do?
In this issue, Lake offers some detailed examples from his own experience in working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, school boards and state policy makers. On our end, we’ve helped establish comprehensive weight loss programs like Weigh Smart at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. More recently we’ve been developing new, multidisciplinary clinics to both manage patients’ weight and co-morbid conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
The good news is pediatricians’ awareness of childhood obesity and related conditions has grown immensely. The challenge, Lake noted, is for all of us to step up in our own daily practice and reach out to potential collaborators. Thank you and enjoy this issue.