According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the U.S. struggle with the disease of obesity, putting them at risk for poor health. Childhood obesity causes immediate and long-term health consequences such as sleep apnea, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Studies show 85% of children and adolescents who suffer from obesity will be burdened with obesity as adults, with a greater risk for bone and joint problems, heart disease, cancer, shorter life span and social and psychological issues such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated that risk, as many children have suffered from increased weight gain due to inactivity and disruptions of normal routes. The simplest things, like waking up on time and walking to school, were replaced with sleeping in and taking a few steps from the bed to the couch for a day of virtual learning.
For some, when classes went virtual, balanced meals at school were replaced with less nutritious snacks at home. Alarmingly, many children and adolescents gained 40 to 90 pounds during the pandemic.
It is important for parents to address potential obesity in their children. Interventions can be easier and more effective for young people, and establishing healthy eating, exercise and weight habits can set your child on a life-long path to better health.
Our Healthy Kids and Teens Weight Program is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and community-based approach to helping children and adolescents struggling with weight issues and medical problems related to excess weight.
Our team of pediatric medical weight-loss experts engages with each patient and their family to find opportunities to change the direction of their child’s life and encourage healthy habits. The team includes 14 nurses and advanced practice providers, obesity medicine physicians, psychologists and registered dietitians.
We offer a non-surgical Medical Weight Program where the team identifies medical issues contributing to weight gain and corrects these when possible. Together, doctors, dietitians and psychologists who have experience working with overweight kids and teens create realistic meal and exercise plans tailored to each child’s medical needs and weight-loss goals.
Our program, led by Dr. Renee Riddle, offers patients counseling, exercise planning, meal planning, meal replacement products, medicine, nutrition counseling, referrals for specialty care and support groups. If appropriate, medications are sometimes prescribed to help with weight loss.
The Surgical Weight Loss Program may be the best approach to long-term weight loss for those teens who suffer from more severe obesity and have related medical problems such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease or high cholesterol. These diseases usually resolve shortly after surgery.
The journey to surgery takes about six months and includes an evaluation with medical specialists and a weight loss surgeon. The teen will visit a dietitian monthly for six months and be evaluated by a behavioral health specialist. A laparoscopic gastric sleeve operation is the most frequent weight loss procedure performed for children and teens.
Research has shown that bariatric surgery is more effective when done early rather than delayed until adulthood. We also know that weight-related illnesses often resolved after surgery, and self-esteem, quality of life and emotional health are likely to improve.
Medically supervised weight loss in children can have profound benefits for both the child and his or her parents. The Healthy Kids and Teens Weight Program is here to help. To learn more about our program, visit towerhealth.org/weight or call 484-628-5673.
Dr. Stephan Myers is chief of the Division of Bariatric Surgery at Reading Hospital, medical director of the Weight Loss Surgery and Wellness Center and chief of Bariatric Surgery at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.
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Reading Hospital offers Healthy Kids and Teens Weight Program – Reading Eagle