Tackling obesity in the young

Rise in pediatric obesity rates has emerged as a public health threat requiring urgent attention.

New Delhi: Over the last few decades, the dramatic rise in pediatric obesity rates has emerged as a public health threat requiring urgent attention.

However, healthcare providers and other professionals who work with the children can help in identifying and treating eating and weight-related problems early in children and adolescents, according to Professor Denise Wilfley and his team from the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in the US. Furthermore, the key to successful treatment is a team effort involving providers and parents.

Wilfley`s paper highlights the important roles of mental health care providers in this effort. The review examines the scope of the obesity problem, highlighting the dramatic increases in childhood obesity. The authors focus on the causes of eating- and weight-related problems in children and adolescents, attending to the complex interactions between environmental and biological factors, and dysregulated eating behaviours known as appetitive traits.

In particular, the authors discuss binge eating and loss-of-control eating; satiety responsiveness or eating in the absence of hunger; motivation to eat; and impulsivity. According to them, the most effective strategies to combat childhood obesity are lifestyle behavioural interventions, and those involving the whole family in particular.

Family-based behavioural interventions are considered the first-line of treatment for pediatric overweight, and weight maintenance interventions aimed at the socio-environmental context are indicated as well. These interventions promote small, successive changes in children`s dietary and physical activity behaviours.

"Not only are there more obese children now than in the past, but the severity of overweight among these children is also much greater. The dramatic increase in pediatric obesity rates has created a mounting need for clinicians, psychologists, and other mental health care providers to play a significant role in the assessment and treatment of youth with eating- and weight-related problems," the authors conclude.

The paper is published online in Springer`s Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings.