January 22, 2010 — The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that clinicians screen children ages 6 to 18 years for obesity and refer as appropriate to programs to improve their weight status, according to evidence-based guidelines posted online January 18 and to be published in the February print issue ofPediatrics. The statement, which is an update of the 2005 USPSTF statement about screening for overweight in children and adolescents, is accompanied by a supporting systematic review and commentary.
“Since the 1970s, childhood and adolescent obesity has increased three- to sixfold,” write chair Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in Denver, and colleagues from the USPSTF. “Approximately 12% to 18% of 2- to 19-year-old children and adolescents are obese (defined as having an age- and gender-specific BMI [body mass index] at >95th percentile)….Previously, the USPSTF found adequate evidence that BMI was an acceptable measure for identifying children and adolescents with excess weight.”
The USPSTF evaluated evidence for the efficacy of pediatric weight management interventions that are feasible in primary care or referable from primary care. The task force also considered the evidence for the magnitude of potential harms of treatment in children and adolescents.
This evidence led the USPSTF to issue a grade B recommendation that clinicians screen children 6 years and older for obesity and provide obese children with intensive counseling and behavioral interventions designed to improve weight status, or that they refer them for such counseling and interventions.
My Take: Improving the health of our youth will help improve our communities. Regular screening for obesity is needed at each health checkup. Parents need to encourage their youth to get regular exercise. Educators need to advocate for physical activity in schools. Health care providers need to screen and educate their patients.