Ethical Family Interventions for Childhood Obesity

No dialogue about ethical interventions in the treatment of childhood obesity would be complete without including the role of family, particularly parents, in influencing their child’s diet and physical activity. However, health experts have been hesitant to address this issue.

Ethical concerns for family-based interventions include parents’ rights and responsibilities to protect their children, perceptions of obesity as child abuse or neglect, and the parents’ role as decision-makers on their child’s behalf because of the child’s limited capacity to comprehend the risks and benefits of treatment.

Family-based interventions are programs that target parents and children in creating a healthy lifestyle, which is difficult as families are confronted with an obesogenic food environment and have sedentary behaviors. Interventions that focus on improving overall family health are an ethical and effective way to decrease childhood obesity.

This article highlights ideas generated and conclusions reached at the Symposium on Ethical Issues in Interventions for Childhood Obesity, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Data for Solutions, Inc.