WASHINGTON, DC, July 20, 2011 — Controversy erupted this week over the article State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The article, written by Harvard childhood obesity expert David Ludwig, MD, PhD and Lindsey Murtagh, JD, MPH, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health, suggests that the government intervene and take over custody of obese children.
Huh? So, the government, the same guys that run things down at the DMV can do a better job with the kids than their parents? Oh so many questions...First of all, What constitutes as severely obese? The examples used in the JAMA article were of a 555 lb. 14-year-old and a 440 lb. 16-year-old. These are examples of kids that have already been taken from their parents. What happens if these kids fail to lose weight in a foster home? Will they blame the foster parents?
I'm certainly not saying that the parents of such severely obese children are faultless--that would be impossible. But there are other factors that influence what kids choose to eat and how physically active (or inactive) they are. According to a Yahoo News article, University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan thinks that more criticism should be placed on advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying--all things that parents have no control over.
Think of the implications of placing a child in foster care--taking the child out of their home, away from their parents. These actions could cause serious emotional trauma to any child, especially an overweight child already prone to low self-esteem and depression.
Is childhood obesity a form of child abuse? Is it the government's place to step into a potentially otherwise loving family to "fix" them? Is the family to blame for obesity in such a way that the child should be actually removed from the home? Should other measures be taken to train and equip the families about better nutrition and exercise? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!