Kate Setter is a member of the media relations team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where she contributes to and manages Change the Outcome (www.cincinnatichildrensblog.org), the hospital’s corporate blog. She most often writes about pediatric public health issues, including obesity, pre term birth and immunization.
Perhaps nothing has been written, talked about or wrestled with more in health care circles the past few years than obesity- and for good reason. Obesity is becoming a national epidemic. The cost to treat its related ailments is approaching $150 billion a year and almost one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese.
Pediatricians across the country, including at Cincinnati Children’s, are doing their best to address overweight and obesity issues with patients and families, but many morbidly obese teenagers are finding themselves out of options to reverse the trajectory of their weight issues.
The majority of these teens have been dieting unsuccessfully for years. It’s a vicious cycle and it is hard to break, but the introduction of teen weight-loss surgery programs across the U.S. has given these kids an option not previously available.
I know surgery can sound extreme, but for these kids, their obesity is extreme and it is keeping them from living the lives that they want and deserve. Surgical intervention is a big decision, one that should never occur in isolation. Experts insist that the decision-making environment must meet the unique physical, medical, behavioral, psychosocial and emotional needs of these kids and their families.
That’s a long list of needs but attention to each of those needs is part of the reason that the program can begin as much as a year prior to surgery and includes long-term follow up care and emotional support.
What’s often as significant as the weight loss for teens that take part in the program is the reversal of obesity-related health conditions. Obviously, every case is different, but many patients are able to ditch diabetes medications following surgery. Others find they no longer need blood pressure medication.
Of course, every surgery has risks and bariatric surgery is truly a last resort option for only the most obese teens. But for kids and families that are out of traditional options, it’s comforting to know that there are experts available and that with diligence and hard work, a healthy future is not out of reach.
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