Experts debate extreme solution to morbid childhood obesity at Philly forum

Health-care providers gathered at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia Friday to discuss how they can help the families of obese children avoid getting caught up in the child welfare system.

Over the summer, an opinion piece in a medical journal suggested that severely obese children should be put in foster care.

Many of the children Dr. Hans Kersten sees are obese.

“Now that obesity is becoming so prevalent — and it’s around 50 percent or more in Philadelphia — we’re seeing diabetes in children that we never saw before.” Kersten said. “It has effects on their bones, on their overall health and well-being, and probably their life expectancy.”

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Kersten, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s, said he thinks involvement by child welfare officials would be extreme. He said child welfare officials have stressed the importance of preventing obesity.

“It’s been proposed that perhaps the child welfare system should be involved if a child has profound obesity or morbid obesity and the family is not addressing it, or is unable to address it,” Kersten said. “I’ve never seen it before, but that’s the discussion.”

A spokesperson for St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children said, in the past few years, many state courts, including Pennsylvania’s, have expanded their definition of medical neglect to include morbid obesity.

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