Children’s Hospital expert discusses childhood obesity prevention

Dr. Ruben Quiros says making a change starts with self-discipline.
6 News spoke with Children's Hospital about childhood obesity in the metro and what steps parents can take to prevent it.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 10:05 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Dr. Ruben Quiros with Children’s Hospital says here in the metro, one in three kids is overweight and one in five is obese -- meaning a child’s body mass index – or BMI – is above the 85th percentile.

“We are not the worst with obesity, we are somewhere in the middle,” Quiros said.

He wants folks to understand that “for the adults, it’s also about genetics, but also, your choices. Kids don’t have no choices. They depend upon what the parents decide to bring home.”

And if the parents are bringing home unhealthy foods, that choice can lead to serious health complications for their kids.

“There’s diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, bone disease, liver disease,” Quiros said.

It’s an epidemic affecting more than 14 million kids across the country, and it’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics put down new guidelines for how physicians should treat childhood obesity.

“I think one of the main points of the guidance is to understand that 95% of children or adults who are overweight, they don’t want to be overweight.”

The AAP recommends medication, specifically Wegovy, for kids 12 and older.

“It’s an injection every week and basically what happens with that is that it’s very helpful for weight loss, very helpful, and it has been shown in the studies that children over the age of 12.”

However – this medication is in high demand and it’s also used to treat diabetes. The other recommendation is to perform surgery on teens 13 and older.

“They are laparoscopic surgeries, gastric sleeve, there is bypass,” Quiros said. “Gastric sleeve has been done more in pediatrics.”

However… Dr. Quiros says these treatments will not cure obesity – unless a patient changes their behavior.

“I think you have to look at the right patient and also you have to work with the patient before the surgery. We cannot offer the surgery as a magic bullet. It’s not going to take care of everything because you still have to work on the behavior,” he said.

Dr. Quiros says patients need to change their lifestyle habits by eating healthier foods and increasing their physical activity.

And for a kid with obesity – it’s going to take the whole family to get on board.

“Educate families, breastfeeding is important, that prevents obesity in the long run. And then the kind of food that’s available. Food deserts, do you have availability of food? What kinds of foods do you have available? Can you buy foods that are the best ones in the market? Prices are better for the things that are not as good for you.”

And sometimes a medical intervention is needed to get a patient on the right track.