AMA tackles childhood obesity with new directives

The American Medical Association (AMA) has issued several new directives to help fight childhood obesity and promote healthier lifestyles in schools across the country.

"Children spend the majority of their productive time in the classroom, so we must improve access to healthy food and encourage more physical activity in school," said AMA Trustee Ronald M. Davis, MD. "Focusing our efforts on nutrition and exercise in schools can help prevent obesity and overweight in many children who may be at risk."

Recent studies have shown that nearly 16 percent of children between the ages of 6 and nineteen are overweight or obese. As a result, obesity-associated illnesses, such as non-insulin-dependent diabetes and osteoarthritis, are quickly increasing in U.S. youth.

To help curb these statistics, the AMA will develop a school health advocacy agenda that includes funding for school-based health programs, physical education and exercise (with stricter limits on declining participation), alternative polices for vending machines to promote healthy diets, and standards for healthier school lunches. The directives also encourage physicians to collaborate with communities to help develop health programs in schools.

Other new AMA policies include:

  • encourage physicians to incorporate body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference as a component measurement in routine adult examinations and BMI percentiles in children;
  • collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to review existing frameworks for school health;
  • identify tenets for promoting school nutrition and exercise and create a recognition program to honor schools that meet the tenets;
  • encourage health industries to make appropriate care available for the prevention and treatment of obese patients.

These new policies are a result of the AMA's 2004 National Summit on Obesity, where national health experts met to identify various strategies to help fight obesity.

http://www.ama-assn.org

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