It is important that GPs take the initiative and sensitively address overweight and obesity in young patients. Once this initial barrier is overcome, motivating patients and their families to adopt simple lifestyle interventions can lead to significant improvement in health and psychosocial outcomes.
Children with overweight or obesity present to health professionals more frequently than children whose weight is within the healthy range. Most do not present because of concerns about weight, but rather because of issues such as recurrent ear infections, asthma, constipation or bed wetting, all of which may be exacerbated as a direct result of excessive weight gain. The first challenge for health professionals, particularly because awareness is often absent, is how to raise the issue of overweight in a child with the parents.
Raising the issue
The NHMRC Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Adolescents and Children in Australia recommend the ‘5 As’ approach to management of obesity: ask, assess, advise, assist and arrange.1 However, parents, and especially those who are overweight or obese themselves, have difficulty recognising obesity in their children. Even health professionals find it difficult to categorise a child’s weight status by visualisation alone.