Obesity isn’t just becoming more prevalent among adults. Over the last several decades, childhood obesity has likewise increased significantly. Making matters even worse is that many obese children are not scanned for related health issues.
This was the opinion of a group of Yale researchers, who published their study in the journal JAMA Network Open. At the heart of the issue were a set of recommendations released by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007, which urged doctors to scan obese children for a set of conditions every two years. Specifically, these guidelines held that such children should be tested for diabetes, liver disease, and lipid disorders at two year intervals.
To determine if these guidelines were being widely followed, the study authors reviewed insurance claims from two separate databases. All of these claims were submitted between the years 2018 and 2019. Upon reviewing these documents, the Yale team determined that just over a quarter of the children received the appropriate tests. In addition, the data revealed that a similar percentage of the children underwent tests that were not needed.
The Wrong Approach
In a press release detailing her team’s work, lead author Dr. Mona Sharifi stated that the claims showed that obese children were not being tested according to recommendations. “This signals to us that while screening recommendations are out there, they’re not really being implemented into practice,” said Sharifi, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health.
Study co-author Kao-Ping Chua expressed similar sentiments. “This is a major problem because near 1 in 5 U.S. children have obesity and early detection of obesity-related conditions can make a huge difference for children during the course of their lives.”
Obese children that are not properly tested could later develop serious conditions as they age. Furthermore, unnecessary tests may lead to a different set of problems, such as causing parents to worry about health problems that their children don’t actually have. These tests may also financially burden the American healthcare system. “The other downside — the added cost — affects the population and health system level,” noted Sharifi.