On December 13, 2023, a task force of the federal government recommended that children with obesity issues should undergo „comprehensive, intensive behavioral interventions,“ including supervised physical activity sessions for up to a year.
The US Preventive Services Task Force, a team of independent, volunteer experts in disease prevention that guides physicians‘ decisions and influences insurance coverage, issued a draft recommendation statement outlining the actions to be taken when a child or adolescent has a high body mass index (BMI).
According to the CDC, nearly 20% of children between 2 and 19 years old have a high BMI. While adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese, obesity in children is determined when a child is at or above the 95th percentile for their age and gender.
In light of the prevalence of the problem, the task force recommends behavioral interventions that include at least 26 hours of supervised physical activity sessions over a period of up to one year. This differs from the task force’s previous recommendations, which emphasized the importance of screening for high BMIs rather than describing the appropriate interventions.
Some of the most effective interventions target both parents and their children, whether jointly, separately, or in combination. Additionally, the task force recommends that children participate in group sessions on healthy eating habits, reading food labels, and exercise techniques. Ideally, these would be led and guided by individuals with diverse professional backgrounds such as pediatricians, physical therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, and social workers.
Other medical organizations, particularly the American Academy of Pediatrics, have recommended medications for some children with obesity; however, the task force is taking a more conservative approach. They noted that while there is ample evidence to show the effectiveness of medications for weight loss and surgical interventions in many cases, there is not enough research to support the use of these interventions in children, especially in the long term.
Dr. Katrina Donahue, MPH, a member of the task force and a professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina, stated, „There are proven methods that doctors can use to help the many children and adolescents with a high BMI to control their weight and stay healthy. Intensive behavioral interventions effectively contribute to children reaching a healthy weight while improving their quality of life.“
The guidelines are still in the draft stage and are available for public comment until January 16, 2024.