Student Opinion: New Guidelines Suggest Anti-Obesity Drugs and Surgery for Children

By Rodrigo Villegas

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines for childhood obesity for the first time in 15 years. 


According to the guidelines, behavioral and lifestyle changes should be the first steps taken for children struggling with obesity. However, the guidelines also warn against waiting out the problem, which includes postponing treatment to see if the child will overcome obesity. 


Waiting only exacerbates the problem. Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, the co-author of the new guidelines, reported to the Associated Press: “What we see is a continuation of weight gain and the likelihood that they’ll have [obesity] in adulthood.” 


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates in the US have climbed from 17 percent to 20 percent in the past decade and a half, with the rest of the world seeing an increase in childhood obesity as well. Without any interventions, obesity can create chronic health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. 


The new guidelines now propose that medication can be given to kids as young as 12, and weight loss surgery can be performed on kids as young as 13. With these recommendations, the AAP emphasizes obesity as a complex biological problem. 


While I am in favor of providing more solutions to the obesity epidemic in the US, I have my doubts as to whether medications and surgery will have a substantial impact. If these solutions are not accompanied by any behavioral or lifestyle changes from the child, will they decrease child obesity rates?


No, I do not think they will. Alone, they are not enough. 


These days, children spend more time indoors than outside, living a sedentary lifestyle. If a child makes no effort to maintain their weight after taking medication or going through surgery, they are going to see that weight come back. After all, studies demonstrate that people see weight gain once they stop taking medication. 


Meanwhile, diet is another crucial factor. Processed, unhealthy foods are more accessible to families than healthy foods. Even with government programs, such as food-stamp benefits, created for the purpose of helping families purchase healthier foods, families still gravitate towards unhealthy foods. 


According to a study, low-income Americans that did not receive food-stamp benefits were found to have a stronger diet than those who did receive food-stamp benefits. 


Therefore, I do not believe that medication and surgery alone will help with reducing childhood obesity rates. A combination of the aforementioned treatments with behavioral and lifestyle changes needs to be used. 


However, neither of these solutions will be of any use if children are not able to receive them in the first place. 


Anti-obesity drugs have been difficult to obtain because of shortages. Ever since its approval by the Food and Drugs Administration in 2021, Wegovy—an anti-obesity drug—has been in short supply. Alternative drugs, Mounjaro and Ozempic, are stuck in the same situation. 

And while supply is one part of the problem, cost is another. Wegovy is not covered through a child’s insurance. Having a price of over 1600 dollars per month, patients are struggling to obtain it.

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