New guidelines suggest children struggling with obesity should be evaluated and treated early and aggressively. The American Academy of Pediatrics says treatments can include medication for kids as young as 12 and surgery for those as young as 13. 

To help parents make sense of the new guidelines, CW39s Idolina Peralez sat down with Dr. Christina Johns, a pediatrician specializing in pediatric emergency care + Senior Medical Advisor at PM Pediatric Care.

Q: Dr. Johns, are these new guidelines going too far?

A: You know, on surface value, I am sure that at first glance, they can really seem like very drastic measures. But I think it’s important to keep the entire guideline in mind and in context that this isn’t simply about recommending medication and surgery for all children who are have a body mass index that’s higher than a certain percentage.

The accumulated evidence that we have obtained over the last over a decade of time that really lets us know what are the important interventions that work. These are comprehensive interventions that include earlier interventions, not things just like medication and surgery, but lifestyle intervention of screening bloodwork, for example, a coordinated multifunctional approach to managing these children, because if we don’t get on top of the obesity epidemic, then we are going to have a lot of adults with significant health problems down the road.

Q: What’s the overall message that you would like to share if a parent or a guardian suspects that their child may be obese?

A: You know, I think the first thing to do is is recall that obesity is really still very much stigmatized. And so we’ve got to work on reducing that. And the way that we do that is by treating it as the health problem that it is just like we treat chronic asthma or other types of medical problems.

So, if there is a parent who is concerned that maybe their child might be headed down a path that is concerning to them have that conversation with their child’s pediatrician, or pediatric health care professional, they are getting familiar with these guidelines, and can help coordinate the multidisciplinary cross functional approach that is key for managing many of these children.

Dr. Christina Johns shares more on health issues that impact children on her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok accounts.