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Foster Care for Morbidly Obese Children? One Doctor Says Yes

In a Journal of the American Medical Association article published this month, it's argued that the government has the right to step in because the child's welfare is at risk.

Pop-Tarts for breakfast?

Big Macs for dinner?

Virtual water skiing at workout time?

If this is your brood’s summer schedule, you may be heading for a child well-being check – especially if Junior is swelling at the waistline.

A couple of high-level health policy wonks are saying foster care may be better than letting kids live with parents who allow them to become so overweight they are candidates for bariatric surgery, since the long-term effects of the operation on children have yet to be understood.

The controversial opinion, published in this month’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, calls for state intervention only in the worst of the worst cases of morbid obesity. It’s not the answer for most of the 2 million U.S. children with a body mass index at or beyond the 99th percentile.

Still, the article - penned by Dr. David S. Ludwig, who has affiliations with the Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health and Children's Hospital of Boston, and lawyer Lindsey Murtagh - has hit a nerve among some parents and commentators who sense a slippery slope.

“Intrusive government intervention,” cry those with a libertarian bent.

“Needed safeguards for helpless dependents too young to understand the complex relationship between calories in and calories burned,” others reason.

Where do you stand? Do you think it’s government’s place to take very overweight children away from the parents who let them get that way? Are parents responsible for their kids’ diet and weight? How do you advise your children on healthy food choices? How do parents help an overweight child learn to drop pounds without wounding self-esteem?

Sarah Eich July 20, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Children need to be taught from a very early age how to eat healthy and how to exercise. That should come from the parents, but if it is not and the child's health is severely at risk, then somebody needs to step in.
Denise Williams July 21, 2011 at 01:33 AM
What other things should 'someone' step in about? How about people who don't protect their children from over-exposure to the sun? How about people who allow exposure to cigarette smoke? How about people who don't teach their children respect for other people's property? Understanding of the value of education? All of these things have serious consequences on children's present and future lives, as well as on the rest of society. Which of these things shoud 'someone' step in about? Who makes that decision? How about people who teach their children hate, and call it religion? Before anyone answers, ask yourself if you want 'someone' else telling you how to raise your children. I am not defending those who inflict obesity, or any of the other examples I've cited. I personally believe they are all wrong personal choices. I am, however, defending individuals the right to choose for themselves and their families. I do not live, and do not want to live in a nanny state.

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