Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bariatric Physicians do not Support State Intervention for Childhood Obesity

AURORA, Colo., Aug. 17, 2011 -- The American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) does not support the concept that state intervention to remove a child from his or her home is the proper way to address life threatening cases of childhood obesity. Comprised of physicians involved in the frontline clinical treatment of obesity, the ASBP believes that in most cases this type of state intervention is extreme and unjustified.

With approximately one out of three children in America considered overweight or obese, it is clear that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Since the CDC began tracking childhood obesity data in the mid 1970s, and despite millions of dollars spent on various campaigns and research efforts, childhood obesity rates have continued to rise. ASBP does not attribute this dramatic increase solely to poor parenting.

Race and ethnicity, genetic predisposition, environment in utero and birth weight all affect obesity rates long before any active parenting occurs. After birth, poverty, infant feeding practices, parent education level, and the well recognized cost disparity between healthy and less healthful foods play a role. Children cannot expend energy as in the past due to the unfortunate fear of injury or abduction as well as unsafe sidewalks, trails, and parks left behind due to state budget deficits. In schools, vending machines, poor quality subsidized school lunches, and the regrettable removal of physical education, recess, and health education classes factor in. If that child turns on a computer and browses the internet, she is barraged by cereal, candy, soda and various other unhealthy advertisements. The same occurs if he listens to the radio, downloads music, or turns on the television. Increased caloric density of foods and portion sizes, and introduction of processed foods have also paralleled our obesity epidemic.

This is not to say that parents are completely defenseless to our obesogenic environment. As physicians who treat childhood obesity, ASBP recognizes that parental involvement is paramount to a child's long term success. Simple changes such as sitting down to dinner as a family, decreasing dining out and fast food consumption, controlling electronics and modeling good behavior can have a significant impact on the weight of the entire family. Parents can drink water instead of sugar sweetened beverages, remove junk foods from the home, decrease processed foods and increase produce (if they can afford to do so and have access to fresh fruits and vegetables). However, these behaviors alone do not guarantee success. Consider an engaged family who has made these changes and the child remains severely obese. ASBP does not agree that the only option is to put him through surgery or remove him from his home.

Approximately two million children are severely obese, clearly more than an overburdened foster care system can handle. Research has shown that the quality of life of an obese child is analogous to that of a child with cancer. Obese children are discriminated against by peers and teachers, and are bullied relentlessly. The additional insult of removing a child from her home will in most cases do more harm than good. In addition, given the fact that 2/3 of our society is overweight and 1/3 obese, the chances that a child will be placed in a home of a family who itself struggles with a weight problem is more likely than not.

Choices do exist separate from surgery and state intervention that should be considered, including early recognition and treatment by medical obesity experts. Research has shown that the probability of childhood obesity persisting into adulthood is estimated to be 20% at age 4 and 80% by adolescence. Research is currently being conducted by bariatricians and other childhood obesity experts using techniques that are much less invasive and equally promising as surgical outcomes without the risks.

Certainly, the premise of turning a severely obese child over to the state is thought provoking, but unless there are clear signs of neglect or abuse in conjunction with the obesity, the ASBP considers it unnecessary, unrealistic and likely damaging to that child long term.

About the ASBP

Founded in 1950, the ASBP is the oldest medical association dedicated to the non-surgical treatment of obesity and associated diseases. The ASBP is a collaborative organization that provides its members practical information and business tools to implement a successful medical bariatric practice. For more information about the ASBP, visit

SOURCE: American Society of Bariatric Physicians


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