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July 2015

Children With ObesityHow Are They Different?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(7):626-628. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0444

One-sixth of US children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese, and about the same proportion are overweight.1 Compared with their normal-weight peers, children with obesity are at higher risk for developing health conditions, such as asthma, orthopedic problems, and depression, as well as adult obesity, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.2 Children and adolescents with obesity are also at higher risk for adverse psychosocial consequences, including teasing, bullying, and depression,3 as well as a lower socioeconomic position in adulthood.4 A responsibility of society, including medical care, is to reduce these excess burdens by treating children with obesity equitably as well as effectively. Here, treating means not only therapy for excess weight but also how we address other attributes that accompany obesity. Sometimes it is better to single out children with obesity for special treatment and sometimes it means treating them the same way as all children. In many circumstances, the answer is somewhere in between.

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