Alarmed at rising levels of obesity in children, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing a call to action.
It is calling on pediatricians to do routine monitoring of children's weight, to prevent a serious problem from getting worse.
Obesity in children is reaching almost epidemic proportions in America. Almost one in five children is now either overweight or obese, and that can set them on course for a lifetime of health problems from heart disease and diabetes, to cancer.
That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing it's first ever policy statement on identifying and preventing the problem. The guidelines call for yearly measuing of a child's body mass index, or bmi. That's the ratio of height to weight, and is a better measure than weight alone.
Pediatrician Dr. Bert Lubin is the director of the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
Dr. Bert Lubin, CHORI Pediatrician: "It's a good indicator because you can monitor it longtitudinally and if you see it going in the direction towards overweight or obesity, something preventive should be instituted."
Pediatricians should also encourage more physical activity, and less time spent in front of the tv or playing video games, and to encourage better eating habits.
The reasons for the increase in childhood obesity are complex. So solutions to the problem will have to be equally complex, involving parents, physicians, the health care system, and the schools.
Dr. Bert Lubin, Pediatrician: "I mean, the tragedy of eliminating sports programs from public schools because of our budgetary crunch is going to lead to more health care costs and less benefits for children in our society."
A U.S. Surgeon General's report said unless we find solutions to the problem, obesity and obesity-related diseases are going to claim more lives, and cost more health care dollars than smoking.