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Health Spotlight: Battling obesity in teens

Health Spotlight: Battling obesity in teens

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 14 million children and teens in the U.S. are living with obesity. It’s a chronic disease associated with a lifetime of health risks.

That’s why for the first time ever, the American Academy of Pediatrics released groundbreaking guidelines on treating children battling obesity.

“When you are obese, people stare at you, people judge you,” said Harley Boaz.

At a time when Harley Boaz should be having the time of her life, She was at risk. At 16 years old, Harley weighed 285 pounds.

“I was diagnosed with hypertension. I was prediabetic. I had high cholesterol,” said Boaz.

A new study by the CDC warns that type 2 diabetes will surge 700% in people under the age of 20 in the next 40 years.

“About 20% of the pediatric population now has obesity,” said Jennifer Sprague, a Pediatric endocrinologist with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is hopeful that new guidelines will revolutionize the way we approach childhood obesity.

“It says we should offer all of our treatments as soon as a patient is eligible for them,” said Sprague.

Sprague says for the first time, doctors have a roadmap on how to treat these children.

“it highlights that a ‘watch and wait’ strategy is not effective.”

The AAP guidelines include evidence-based recommendations such as motivational interviewing to behavior treatments and pharmaceuticals like the newly FDA approved wegovy – the first once-weekly weight loss injection approved for kids 12 and up.

“They can make a really huge difference in patients’ lives,” said Sprague.

Studies show 95% of teens with type 2 diabetes who had bariatric surgery no longer had it three years following surgery, and 74% normalized their high blood pressure.

“I think there’s always hope that if you treat this disease, you’re gonna lessen the long-term consequences,” said Sprague.

The new guidelines also urge pediatricians to consider genetics, physiology, socioeconomic factors and the environment – stressing obesity is not just about weight, it’s a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.