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Global Network

Obesity Counseling for Kids Lacking

male doctor talking to young woman

Doctors and other health professionals advise almost half of teenagers they see to eat healthy and about a third to exercise more, but overweight adolescents received the advice far less than those who were obese, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics.

The study used data from a national representative survey of 14,000 adolescents and their parents. The adolescents were 11 to 17 years old and had visited a health provider within a one-year period. Researchers gathered BMI data and health professional advice from the parents.

Overall, health providers advised 47 percent of girls and 44 percent of boys to eat healthy; they recommended 36 percent of their patients exercise more. Obese boys and girls were at least twice as likely to be advised to eat healthy and exercise more compared to their normal weight peers. Yet only about two-thirds of obese girls received dietary advice and slightly over half of obese boys.

And adolescents who were overweight were less likely to receive healthy eating or physical activity advice compared to those who were obese.

A government survey released in January found that 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Obese youth are more likely to become obese adults, placing them at increased risk of several cancers as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


  • Lan Liang, Chad Meyerhoefer and Justin Wang. Obesity Counseling by Pediatric Health Professionals: An Assessment Using Nationally Representative Data. Pediatrics. 2012 Jul;130(1):67-77.
  • Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D.; Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H.; Brian K. Kit, M.D., M.P.H.; and Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D. NCHS Data Brief Number 82, Prevalence of Obesity in the United States, 20092010, January 2012
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