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American Academy of Pediatrics moves away from 'watchful waiting' for treating children with obesity

Obesity Charts
Patrick Sison
AP file
This April 3, 2018 file photo shows a closeup of a beam scale in New York.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidance on treating obesity in children, saying there's no evidence to support an approach called "watchful waiting" and instead recommending that medication and surgery be offered early.

Maine-based pediatric obesity specialist Dr. Valerie O'Hara says those treatments can be appropriate for kids as young as ages 12 and 13.

"I think this is incredibly positive movement," O'Hara says. "I think it really shows how far our understanding and the need for care with children with obesity and that watchful waiting — we need to be acting and taking care of our patients more completely. And it also provides hope that we can continue to remove bias and stigma and provide access to patients and families who have the disease of obesity."

O'Hara says healthy eating and exercise should also be encouraged in conjunction with medication and surgery. She says both in Maine and nationally, roughly 16-20% of Maine children and young adults have obesity, and the fastest growing subset is those with severe obesity.