Screening for Obesity in Children and Adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement

JAMA. 2017 Jun 20;317(23):2417-2426. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.6803.


Importance: Based on year 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts, approximately 17% of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years in the United States have obesity, and almost 32% of children and adolescents are overweight or have obesity. Obesity in children and adolescents is associated with morbidity such as mental health and psychological issues, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, orthopedic problems, and adverse cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes (eg, high blood pressure, abnormal lipid levels, and insulin resistance). Children and adolescents may also experience teasing and bullying behaviors based on their weight. Obesity in childhood and adolescence may continue into adulthood and lead to adverse cardiovascular outcomes or other obesity-related morbidity, such as type 2 diabetes.

Subpopulation considerations: Although the overall rate of child and adolescent obesity has stabilized over the last decade after increasing steadily for 3 decades, obesity rates continue to increase in certain populations, such as African American girls and Hispanic boys. These racial/ethnic differences in obesity prevalence are likely a result of both genetic and nongenetic factors (eg, socioeconomic status, intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food, and having a television in the bedroom).

Objective: To update the 2010 US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation on screening for obesity in children 6 years and older.

Evidence review: The USPSTF reviewed the evidence on screening for obesity in children and adolescents and the benefits and harms of weight management interventions.

Findings: Comprehensive, intensive behavioral interventions (≥26 contact hours) in children and adolescents 6 years and older who have obesity can result in improvements in weight status for up to 12 months; there is inadequate evidence regarding the effectiveness of less intensive interventions. The harms of behavioral interventions can be bounded as small to none, and the harms of screening are minimal. Therefore, the USPSTF concluded with moderate certainty that screening for obesity in children and adolescents 6 years and older is of moderate net benefit.

Conclusions and recommendation: The USPSTF recommends that clinicians screen for obesity in children and adolescents 6 years and older and offer or refer them to comprehensive, intensive behavioral interventions to promote improvements in weight status. (B recommendation).

Publication types

  • Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advisory Committees*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Decision Making
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Mass Screening* / adverse effects
  • Metformin / therapeutic use
  • Off-Label Use
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pediatric Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control
  • Pediatric Obesity / therapy
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • United States
  • Weight Loss


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin