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All Kids Should Be Screened for Obesity, According to Aggressive New Recommendation

It seems the childhood obesity crisis in this country really is that bad.

child feet on scale AGorohov/Shutterstock
It's no secret that the childhood obesity rate just isn't going down, despite all the attention focused on this sad and scary issue. In fact, according to recent data, one-third of kids between ages 2 and 19 are overweight, and 17 percent are obese. And certain populations of obese kids are growing, including Latino boys and African-American girls.

We know that being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for a slew of health problems. So now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that health care providers routinely screen all kids ages 6 and older for obesity, according to the The Los Angeles Times.

The hope is that a simple body-mass index check at well-visits will prevent kids from continuing a path toward a lifetime of obesity. Because as The Times reports, studies show almost 80 percent of obese teens are on track to stay that way as adults.

The task force recommends that kids who are at risk, and their families, should receive 26 hours of counseling over several weeks or months, according to The Times. Which makes sense, since kids are learning their eating and exercise habits from their parents. In clinical trials, kids who received counseling gained less than one-third the amount of weight than those in a control group.

But even with these intervention efforts, experts acknowledge many patients won't lose enough weight, or continue healthy lifestyle behaviors afterwards.

The task force also found the use of medication to curb weight gain was not overly successful, and in fact, caused too many side effects for them to be recommended.

The takeaway: The earlier kids who are overweight or obese are offered interventions, the more likely it is that they can go on to lead healthy adult lives.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook, where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.