Surgery for obese children: necessary or invasive?

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Do children from the age of 13 need surgery if they are overweight? Some doctors think it’s too aggressive, while others see the need for this kind of drastic measure. Pediatric endocrinologist and special appointment professor of youth, nutrition, and health, Edgar van Meel shares his considerations in this column.

“In my work as a pediatric endocrinologist, I deal with children who suffer from severe obesity and its consequences. It is therefore important that we take the topic of childhood obesity seriously and look for sustainable solutions. The latest new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics for surgery in children of age 13 years old if they are overweight is a sensation in the Netherlands.

So why do people act so aggressively and operate on children? The answer is simple: Americans take childhood obesity very seriously. They know very well that this large group of obese children is going to cost billions in health care. Being overweight at an early age means a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and problems with the musculoskeletal system. We know here in the Netherlands that it is not only about the later costs, but also the suffering of the children in the present moment. Children are already overweight, because they do not keep up with sports and games, they are bullied and because they suffer from low self-esteem.

At the Center of Expertise for a Healthy Lifestyle for Children at the Jeroen Bosch Hospital, we see obese children from all over the country. Together with children and parents, we try to understand the factors that lead to weight gain and maintenance. This results in the treatment and counseling advice we put together. And if we have learned one thing, it is that obesity is a very complex condition and very difficult to treat. Parents often need help from different angles to maintain the necessary behavioral change and success. Unlike in the United States, surgery for children from the age of 13 is rarely necessary in the Netherlands.”

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Would you like to know more about the Center of Expertise for a Healthy Lifestyle? Then view a file website page.

Source: JBZ

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