Obesity in children a 'public health crisis'

February 17, 2023

Obesity in children a 'public health crisis'

Dr. Brian Johnston, chief of pediatrics at Harborview Medical Center, says more than 14 million children across the U.S. are now diagnosable as obese – or about 20% of all children in the country.  

“I think we've reached a point now where this public health crisis is not getting better, and we're seeing the long-term effects of untreated obesity in children,” said Johnston, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “This is a complicated interaction between genes and environments, and it doesn't reflect a child who's unable or unwilling to make the changes they need to make in order to stay at a healthy weight.” 

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics Feb. 13 finds that a 2010 federal law which promoted healthier school lunches may have helped slow the increasing trend. Meantime, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published new guidelines for treating childhood obesity, which state that medications (for patients ages 12 and up) and bariatric surgery (for those 13 and up) are tools doctors can consider for aggressive treatment of severe obesity.  

Johnston says intensive lifestyle interventions can be an effective first line of treatment that entire families can do together.  

“That is behavior change and helping families with healthy eating, making good nutritional choices, and building physical activity into their daily lives,” said Johnston. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites showing a pediatrician’s perspective on the issue of childhood obesity.

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