Childhood Obesity

Obesity occurs when a child is significantly over the ideal weight for her height. Like adults, children become obese when they eat more calories than they use. Obesity in children is determined by using a body mass index (BMI) percentile. BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height.

Obesity can increase a child’s risk for serious and chronic medical problems, such as type 2 diabeteshigh blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, orthopedic problems and liver disease.

Researchers continue to search for ways to treat obesity, but taking preventive measures has proven to be the best method so far. This means eating a healthy diet based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and lean protein. It is also important to maintain an active lifestyle by getting at least an hour of physical activity a day.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches obesity

Boston Children’s has five hospital-based programs to help children and their families manage their weight.

  • PREP program: Based in the Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic at Boston Children’s, this multidisciplinary program works with 13 to 25 year olds in their primary care clinic to develop a teen- and young adult-friendly approach to weight and lifestyle management. 

  • Preventive Cardiology Clinic (Lipid Clinic):The preventive cardiology program serves patients who have elevated lipid levels and/or hypertension.  Seventy percent of the children seen in this program are obese and thus many of the interventions focus on the same types of lifestyle and behavior changes as the clinical obesity programs.

  • Adolescent Bariatric Surgery Program: This multi-disciplinary program for adolescents who are considering surgical interventions to reduce weight. Patients must have attempted at least six months of medically supervised weight loss before they would be considered for eventual surgery.