Childhood Obesity Now Constitutes Child Abuse

Posted: Jul 13, 2011 4:14 PM

By now you've probably heard about the Journal of the American Medical Association article, recommending that Child Protective Services remove severely obese children from their homes. Here's the abstract, from the JAMA website (a subscription is required to read the whole article):

Many biological, psychosocial, and behavioral factors affect energy balance and, therefore, childhood weight gain, with parents playing an important mediating role. Ubiquitous junk food marketing, lack of opportunities for physically active recreation, and other aspects of modern society promote unhealthful lifestyles in children. Inadequate or unskilled parental supervision can leave children vulnerable to these obesigenic environmental influences. Emotional distress and depression, or other psychological problems arising from abuse and neglect, may exacerbate this situation by leading to disordered eating and withdrawal from sports and other social activities.

Even relatively mild parenting deficiencies, such as having excessive junk food in the home or failing to model a physically active lifestyle, may contribute to a child's weight problem. Typically, the potential harm involves an increased risk for obesity-related chronic disease later in life.

I don't think anyone would disagree that intervention is justified in cases of child abuse. But when it comes to suggestions like this, one wonders where you draw the line. At what point, exactly, is a child 'severely obese'? Will parents now be charged with feeding their kids too many calories? How about letting them read a book instead of exercizing? And how, precisely, is the Child Protective Service supposed to keep tabs on which children are overweight? Makes you wonder what suggestions will come next out of this nanny state run amok.