Disturbing: More Kids Than Ever Taking Obesity-Related Medications

| by Toni Brayer MD

One of the blogs I read, by Maggie Mahar, pointed out that a new study found that 26% of kids under age 19 are now taking prescription drugs for a chronic condition. The drugs include asthma medication, anti-psychotics, diabetes, anti-hypertensives and heartburn medications. According to the Medco study (the largest pharmacy benefit manager), the incidence of type 2 diabetes increased over 150% in children between 2001 and 2009. Readers, that is staggering! Children are supposed to be healthy and active and not tied to a regimen of pills.

What is our nation doing to care for our most precious citizens? Why are 17% of adolescents (ages 10-19) now classified as obese? Why have medications used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes increased 15.2% in children? And why are children being treated for heartburn, a condition that is associated with obesity and should never be part of childhood?

I ask these questions rhetorically. We know the answers. The increase in obesity can be directly linked to processed foods with high sugar content, carbohydrates and sugary soft drinks. Couple that with lack of exercise and you get a fat kid. Studies show that obesity leads to high blood pressure, insulin abnormalities and diabetes, breathing disorders, gastroesophageal reflux and possibly even behavioral problems.

These figures should be front page news, right up there with the awful BP oil spill, and we should be just as outraged. Most of these medications have not been tested on children, and we do not know the long-term consequences. We have a huge problem that cannot be swept under the door with a prescription. It is not the kid's fault. It is society's fault.

We need to put health first. The new food labeling laws associated with Health Insurance Reform are a tiny start. We need to get sodas out of schools and out of the nation's refrigerators. We need to make physical education a school requirement, not a nice extra "if we can afford it." We need to embrace Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and improve school (and home) lunches.  We need to stop buying candy and pretending that packaged convenience food is "real" food.

I know readers of EverythingHealth probably already do the right things for their kids. It will take a village approach to turn this around for our nation.