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Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Expert Article Highlights Guidelines Physicians Can Use in Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Guidelines established by American Medical Association panel to combat childhood obesity

A national panel of childhood obesity experts, including a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC physician, have established guidelines for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity that are highlighted in a publication for family physicians this month.

Among the recommendations — physicians should strongly advocate advising families to limit consumption of sweetened beverages and fast food, limit screen time, engage in physical activity for at least 60 minutes per day and encourage family meals on most, and preferably all, days of the week.

The guidelines were established by the Expert Committee on the Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment of Child and Adolescent Overweight and Obesity, an expert panel convened last year by the American Medical Association to develop solutions for one of the most troubling public health issues facing the country. Goutham Rao, MD, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children’s Hospital, was a member of that panel. An article highlighting the panel’s recommendations authored by Dr. Rao appears in the July issue of American Family Physician, a journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“The first step is for the physician to identify the issue with the patient and his or her family. We are urging family physicians and pediatricians to assess a child’s key dietary habits, physical activity habits, readiness to change lifestyle habits, and family history of obesity and obesity-related illnesses during the appointment. Too often, these areas are overlooked because of a lack of time or because physicians are uncomfortable addressing them with a family,” Dr. Rao said. “Our recommendations can be carried out by the physician for treatment and prevention — and they’re all practical steps that families can take to make lifestyle changes.”

Childhood obesity rates are at all-time highs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Interestingly, unlike the CDC, which discourages the use of the term “obese” and recommends using the term “overweight” instead when referring to children, the Expert Panel uses the term “obese” to describe children with age- and sex-adjusted body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile, to be consistent with adult terminology. Roughly 14 percent of children ages 2 to 5, 19 percent of children 6 to 11, and 17 percent of children age 12 to 19 are obese.

Dr. Rao’s article also highlights recommendations made by the panel on laboratory testing that physicians should order depending on the degree of obesity and associated illnesses. For children with a BMI between the 84th and 95th percentiles but with no obesity-related illnesses, a fasting lipid profile should be done. Those with the same BMI and obesity-related illnesses should have their fasting blood glucose and liver enzyme levels tested. Measurement of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels (which can indicate dysfunction in the liver and kidneys) should be added for children with a BMI above the 95th percentile.





Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
April 11, 2014
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Last Update
April 11, 2014