A recent Journal of the American Medical Association piece is questioning whether it’s better for a super obese child to go through obesity surgery or to be removed from the home, at least temporarily, until their weight can be stabilized. In some cases, they think taking custody is better. I agree.
Our government has done things such as remove vending machines from school grounds, revamp the food pyramid to a plate (one reason was so kids can understand it more easily), and several municipalities have passed ordinances requiring calorie counts on menus. The idea here is to get people the best information so they can make smart choices and, yes, in a Big Brother sort of way, to remove temptations.
But what happens, most likely from lack of knowledge, if parents raise super obese kids?
Barring medical reasons, I’m sure it’s not on purpose. I’m sure the parent or parents are either working so hard they barely have time to breathe, let alone cook a healthy dinner, or they have no idea how to prepare healthy foods because they were never taught themselves.
The first step should be intervention; the school system should flag kids with extreme obesity issues (I’m talking morbidly obese, not the merely plump) and have the parents in for a talk. Lots and lots of information should be made available to them: cooking classes, how to eat well on a budget, shopping lists, maybe coupons geared towards healthy food, a support group with other parents, even psychological support if needed. Everything we can think of to keep the child in the home, but healthy.
But if that doesn’t work, yes, I think taking children from the home is a whole lot better than putting them under the knife.
A child who is super obese, who doesn’t improve with intervention, and is looking at surgery to repair the damage is a kid with a shortened lifespan. I want to be super clear here. In my opinion, going in for bariatric or similar surgeries is literally maiming the body, and long-term studies suggest it doesn’t always work. Many adults getting the procedure have found their stomach will stretch again over time and fall back to their calorie chugging ways. Why do that to a kid?
But don’t just put the child in any random home. I’ve worked in the department of social services system and I’ve seen the gamut of people in the system. Some are a bit lost, in need of guidance, and some with maybe not the best intentions. Just stowing a kid in any random environment isn’t going to work. You need to develop a system of foster homes geared towards working with obese kids, or work with existing in-treatment hospital programs (my preference) that can work with and help these kids.
And you should never give up on the parents. Keep trying to educate them and get them to see what damage they’re doing to their kids. I guarantee you the parents are most likely obese too and need just as much, if not more, help than their children. Plus, removing one’s child from one’s care is a very radical and punitive action to take, and just might be enough of a deterrent to get a parent to take action where other methods failed.
So that’s a pretty strong opinion and I’m right there with JAMA. What do you think? Should we look at taking kids out of the home or do you think surgery is the better option? This is by no means the first option we look at, but the absolute last … if we can stop a kid’s obesity when they’re young, we can give them a chance at a long, healthy life. If we don’t, we’re condemning them to medical problems and very possibly an early death. Don’t they deserve a better chance than that?