FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – Experts agree that obesity is one of today’s most visible, yet most neglected, public health problems and unfortunately more and more children are finding themselves at risk. But what do you do when behavioral and lifestyle changes aren’t enough?
We sat down with Dr. Kelvin Higa, the program director of Fresno bariatrics at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital to learn about the options available to adolescents with severe obesity.
“There are several issues on why we’re not addressing this. And for me it’s always been a fight against the bias against the disease. Obesity is a disease. It’s not because of a weakness of character, it’s not because we’re just glutinous and lazy. It’s clear that if we don’t attack this and if we don’t see this as a disease–we’re never going to treat the patients properly,” Dr. Kelvin Higa said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in October 2019 supporting the expansion of bariatric and metabolic surgery to pediatric and adolescent groups.
“So surgery is just one of the tools we have. Because it’s nice that we can do surgery — at least it’s been proven safe and effective, but for every patient that qualifies for surgery, there are hundreds of others who really need treatment, as well. One thing we know from studying adults, but now we’re studying adolescents with the labs consortium is that these operations are effective, perhaps even more so, in the younger population,” said Dr. Higa.
He adds that obesity should be addressed in the younger age groups to help prevent health and emotional issues from arising and says individuals that are affected are often bullied at school–saying the first step begins with parents and pediatricians.
“Parents should really refer — or physicians/pediatricians should refer only to centers that have experience. And not necessarily adult centers, but experience with this age group–because this is a special age group. There are special things and it really requires a team of individuals, specialists trained in pediatric adolescent medicine, nutrition, psychology, etc,” said Dr. Higa.
Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital metabolic and bariatric surgery program offers extensive bariatric patient resources for both adults and children.
“So we’re fortunate at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital that we are authorized to take care of the adolescent group. This is a special designation by the ASMBS, our society, as well as the American College of Surgeons. And we do have a pediatrician on staff, and we have specialists who can take care of these patients.”
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports that in the united states, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity more than tripled since the 1970s. In 2015-2016, nearly 1 in every 5 school aged children and young people aged 6 to 19 years old were considered obese.
“I think we really need to attack this like it is an epidemic and this is going to require a lot of resources.
If you would like to learn more about Fresno Bariatrics at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital, visit FresnoBariatrics.org.