Childhood and Adolescent Obesity
Age-Appropriate Care for Children with Obesity
Children who have gained weight too quickly need prompt, expert medical care to prevent emotional and medical concerns that can start during childhood and continue into adulthood. Helping children and teens achieve long-term healthy habits is the mission of Duke Children’s Healthy Lifestyle program. Our experts work closely with you to give your child and your family the tools they need to live healthy, active lifestyles.
We Help Your Child Lose Weight and Keep It Off
We understand that trying to eat healthy foods and be active regularly can be frustrating and overwhelming. Maybe you're not sure how to help your child, or perhaps your child has already tried to make changes without the success you want.
Children who have obesity are at risk for developing a range of medical conditions that include asthma and sleep apnea, as well as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which increase your child’s risk for heart disease. Excess weight can lead to liver problems; it can also damage your child’s growing bones and joints, making it even harder for your child to move and be active.
Children with obesity are also prone to social and emotional problems caused by teasing and bullying and often experience low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
With the right blend of medical care, coaching, and support, childhood obesity may be overcome. Our Healthy Lifestyles program provides expert care and guidance to help your child lose weight and keep it off. In many cases, when kids reach and maintain a healthy lifestyle, their weight-related complications can improve.
Achieve a Healthy Lifestyle Through Medically-Supervised Care
The Healthy Lifestyles program treats children and teens whose BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for their age. Our approach to helping children overcome obesity and related health problems is comprehensive.
- We provide all the services you need under one roof. Our team includes pediatricians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered dietitians, physical therapists, and mental health providers. Your child can receive the care he or she needs from multiple providers during a single appointment.
- We perform comprehensive evaluations to rule out medical conditions that can predispose children to weight gain, including hypothyroidism, hormone problems, and rare genetic disorders.
- We coordinate referrals to pediatric specialists if your child has medical complications that contribute to (or are caused by) their weight gain. Depending on your child’s needs, we may refer him or her to Duke pediatric cardiologists, endocrinologists, gastroenterologists, kidney disease specialists, and orthopedic specialists.
- Through our partnership with the city of Durham, we operate a free, community-based wellness program called Bull City Fit. Available only to Duke Healthy Lifestyles patients and their families, it provides a variety of fitness and instructional classes, seven days a week. Opportunities include sports, swimming, dance classes, fitness instruction, cooking classes, gardening, and support groups.
- Weight loss surgery may be an option for some children ages 14 and older. We work closely with weight loss surgeons at Duke to prepare children who qualify for bariatric surgery. Duke is home to North Carolina’s only accredited adolescent weight loss surgery program.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to weight loss. We use a tailored approach that is unique to each child and family. When creating your child’s weight loss plan, we’ll consider what weight loss strategies have been tried in the past; whether your child has additional medical complications that need treatment; and your child’s personal goals.
We incorporate lifestyle changes into every child’s treatment plan. We’ll help your family learn valuable and practical ways to eat healthier and become more active.
Duke pediatricians designed a diet called the Staged Transitional Eating Plan (STEPS) for children 10 and older. Over three phases, your child will:
1. Eat only foods that contain very low carbohydrates;
2. Gradually begin to eat certain whole-food carbs; and
3. Continue to consume specific amounts of carbs as prescribed.
Children who participate in the STEPS diet receive guidelines, sample menus, recipes, and one-on-one support from our providers.
In certain circumstances we can prescribe medications to treat obesity, starting around age 12.
Teens who meet certain criteria may be eligible for bariatric surgery (also known as gastric bypass surgery). Duke is one of the few weight loss surgery programs in the country that is accredited to perform weight loss surgery on adolescents ages 14 to 18.