With American children on course to grow into the most obese generation of adults in history, Sonia Caprio argues that it is critical to develop more effective strategies for preventing childhood obesity and treating serious obesity-related health complications. She notes that although pediatricians are concerned about the obesity problem, most are ineffective in addressing it.
Treatment should begin, Caprio explains, with a thorough medical exam, an assessment of nutrition and physical activity, an appraisal of the degree of obesity and associated health complications, a family history, and full information about current medications. Caprio also summarizes the current use of medications and surgery in treating child obesity and argues that for severe forms of obesity, the future lies in developing new and more effective drugs.
Caprio explains that today's most effective obesity treatment programs have been carried out in academic centers through an approach that combines a dietary component, behavioral modification, physical activity, and parental involvement. Such programs, however, have yet to be translated to primary pediatric care centers. Successfully treating obesity, she argues, will require a major shift in pediatric care that builds on the findings of these academic centers regarding structured intervention programs.
To ensure that pediatricians are well trained in implementing such programs, the American Medical Association is working with federal agencies, medical specialty societies, and public health organizations to teach doctors how to prevent and manage obesity in both children and adults. Such training should be a part of undergraduate and graduate medical education and of continuing medical education programs.
Caprio also addresses the problem of reimbursement for obesity treatment. Despite the health risks of obesity, patients get little support from health insurers, thus putting long-term weight-management programs beyond the reach of most. Caprio argues that obesity should be recognized as a disease and receive coverage for its treatment just as other diseases do.