Preventing and Treating Adolescent Obesity: A Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. (2016) Journal of Adolescent Health.59(5) pp. 602-606
Image source: Jixuan Zhou – Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Executive Summary and Positions

Adolescent obesity is an international problem that is a major public health concern with short- and long-term health consequences. Its prevention and treatment require that all health care professionals (HCPs) work together. To date, very little evidence supports effective treatment approaches for adolescents.

This position paper provides expert consensus and evidence wherever possible to increase professionals’ ability to prevent, screen, treat, and advocate effectively for obesity prevention and healthy weight promotion. Our positions are summarized in the following section:

  1. .HCP should have the knowledge, skills, and resources to prevent and treat obesity while incorporating the biopsychosocial stages of adolescent development.
  2. For all adolescent patients, the committee recommends that HCP:
    a. Determine weight status by calculating body mass index (BMI) and identifying BMI percentile for age and sex.
    b. Assess for medical complications.
    c. Screen for behaviors, including nutrition and physical activity, and family history, that increase the risk of, or worsen, obesity.
    d. Reinforce healthy behaviors, and when appropriate, counsel adolescents regarding body-image, inappropriate dieting, and weight stigmatization.
  3. Once a diagnosis of obesity has been established, HCP should work with dietitians, behavioral health providers, and exercise specialists to guide the patient through an evaluation for comorbidities, deliver evidence-based lifestyle counseling, and if indicated, refer to more intensive treatment options such as weight loss surgery, monitored diets, or residential care.

HCPs are uniquely positioned to advocate for changes within and outside the health care setting to address the obesity epidemic. Areas for advocacy include: increasing availability of clinical and community resources to prevent and treat obesity; leveraging support for adolescent-focused research; promoting environmental and policy changes related to healthy eating and active living; improving reimbursement for multidisciplinary care; eliminating policies and practices that stigmatize obese adolescents both explicitly and implicitly; and integrating the prevention approaches of the obesity and eating disorder fields that address weight-related disorders.

Read the full article here


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