Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) play an important role in curbing childhood obesity, which can lead to a variety of health and emotional problems both in adulthood and childhood.
Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital Colorado, toldContemporary Clinicthat NPs and PAs should calculate body mass index (BMI) and BMI percentiles at every health care encounter for children and adolescents.
“When overweight or obesity is identified, it allows the provider to start a discussion with the patient and the family and to emphasize the importance of abnormal weight gain on a variety of adverse health outcomes,” Dr. Daniels said. “It allows the nurse practitioner or physician assistant to assess health issues that are potentially related to obesity, such as blood pressure elevation and sleep apnea.”
In addition, he advised retail clinicians to stay up to date on community resources that may be useful for improving diet and physical activity and to encourage families to take advantage of these tools.
The following conditions are some of the problems individuals may face as a result of childhood obesity:
1. Colon Cancer
A new study presented at the European Obesity Summit found that children who have a high BMI at age 13 have an increased risk of colon cancer in the future.
The researchers looked at more than 250,000 individuals and found a 9% increase in colon cancer risk for each z-score unit increase in BMI. (Z-scores are used to compare the child’s BMI to a reference population).
A high BMI was also associated with an increased risk of early stroke in adulthood, according to a recent study presented at the European Obesity Summit.
The researchers looked at a group of more than 307,000 school children from the 1930s to 1980s. Around 3500 women and around 5300 men eventually had an ischemic stroke. The researchers found that a BMI z-score of 1 increased the risk for stroke by 26% in women and 21% in men.
3. High Blood Pressure
As obesity rates increase, blood pressure levels rise, too. The European Obesity Summit study found that childhood obesity was “one of the strongest predictors of the level of blood pressure in adulthood.”
4. Insulin Resistance
Studies have shown that youth obesity is linked to decreased insulin sensitivity and increased circulating insulin levels.
5. Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin resistance often goes hand-in-hand with obesity, glucose intolerance, and type 2 diabetes.
6. High Levels of Triglycerides and Low Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C)
Patients who are obese often have a trifecta of high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, and low HDLC.
7. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
A 2014 study published in theInternational Journal of Obesityfound that obesity is one of the most important risk factors for NAFLD. Hispanic children are more prone to the condition than white or black children.
“Presently, weight management is the most important clinical intervention for NAFLD,” the researchers stated.
8. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Around one-third of severely obese children have obstructive sleep apnea, and it may actually aggravate severe obesity.
One study found that patients with a BMI above the 85th percentile have an increased risk of asthma, even when accounting for age, sex, ethnicity, tobacco smoke, and socioeconomic status.
Teens who seek help for obesity tend to show more depressive symptoms than their counterparts with normal weight. Childhood obesity is also associated with a lower quality of life.