Childhood obesity

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Childhood obesity is considered to be one of the major public health concerns of the 21st century and is associated with a range of medical and psychosocial consequences, including increased risk for premature mortality, a range of long term morbidities, and significantly reduced quality of life.1

Obesity (i.e., an excess in body fat) is thought to be the result of an energy imbalance whereby energy intake levels exceed energy expenditure. As a result, diet and physical activity levels are thought to play a central role in the development and maintenance of childhood overweight and obesity, and to be the key to treatment. Research has revealed that weight gain can also be influenced by an interaction of biological (neuroendocrine, genetic, metabolic), psychological (depression, anxiety, stress), and social (family, perinatal, maternal) factors.2, 3

Given the complex interplay of medical, psychological, and lifestyle factors involved in the development of childhood overweight and obesity, the assessment and treatment of a child’s weight problems should be conducted collaboratively by a multidisciplinary team comprising the child’s paediatrician/general practitioner (GP), psychologist, dietitian, and an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist (if needed).4

Psychological assessment for childhood overweight and obesity involves taking a thorough history which covers the child’s weight, family factors, eating behaviours, sleep and physical activity, mental health, and readiness to change.5-7

There is strong evidence that family-based behavioural treatment (FBT) integrating dietary modification, increased physical activity, behavioural strategies, and family involvement is effective in the treatment of childhood overweight and obesity.4, 8-13

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  • Contributor(s)
    APS College of Health Psychologists
    Working Group on Obesity
    Lina Ricciardelli
    Helen Lindner
    Esben Strodl
    Paul O’Halloran
    APS Member Resources team
  • Publish date
    29 Jun 2015
  • References

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