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Recent guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend intensive behavioral interventions for children aged six and older with high body mass index (BMI)* to combat the alarming rise of childhood obesity, now affecting nearly 20 percent of U.S. children. The number of children with obesity has grown significantly, tripling over the past four decades. This issue disproportionately impacts Latino, Native American, Black, and lower-income families.

“Children who are obese are at increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease,” says Donald Case, M.D., a Barstow-area Peditrician. “Obesity in children can have significant mental and social implications, including depression and anxiety.”

The updated guidelines urge doctors to implement intervention strategies rather than just screening children for obesity. Providers can tailor these options to fit the patient and their family, the task force says, but the interventions should involve at least 26 hours in a calendar year.

According to Dr. Case, the recommended interventions can include self-monitoring; education about healthy eating habits; counseling on weight-related behavioral changes, such as goal setting; supervised physical activity; and limiting screen time.

“Getting parental buy-in will be a challenge,” said Dr. Case. “Many parents are in denial. Another problem is that we had been counseled not to fat shame as this could lead to depression. As such, physicians tended to minimize health risks due to obesity. Public health agencies have now realized that this approach has created a major obesity problem,” added Dr. Case.

Donald Case, M.D., is an independent member of the Barstow Community Hospital Medical Staff

*BMI is the measure most practitioners use to determine whether a person has obesity.