Here we go again:
Harvard University child obesity expert Dr. David Ludwig’s recent claim that some parents should lose custody of their severely obese children has sparked outrage among families and professionals across the country.
The national outcry led one family to share how its personal experience with the matter damaged their lives.
Ludwig, an obesity expert at Children’s Hospital Boston and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, shared his divisive idea in an opinion piece that ran in the Journal of the American Medical Association Wednesday: that state intervention can serve in the best interest of extremely obese children, of which there’re about 2 million across the United States.
“In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems,” Ludwig co-wrote with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
The topic has quickly generated controversy, and the majority of experts contacted by ABC News disagreed with Ludwig and Murtagh’s ideas.
Dr. David Katz, founder of the Yale Prevention Center, said that there was no evidence that the state would do a better job of feeding children than their parents.
Dr. David Orentlicher, co-director of Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University of School Law, also disagreed, saying that based on past instances, child protective service agencies might be far too quick to place overweight children in foster care.
Mind you, I’m the mother of a little girl who “exercises” around the house and, afterwords, asks you to “touch her muscles!” That being said, I’m also a mother who was pretty overweight as a child. Looking back on what my life was like, the only difference between my mother and I was the fact that she wasn’t overweight. She ate the exact same way I did.
Let me backtrack. I know who David Ludwig is, and he gets my respect. Do I understand where he’s coming from? Absolutely. Parents who display an unwillingness to do what needs to be done for their child – be it food, adequate shelter, etc – need to be assessed. However… I feel like there’s a part of this that he’s missing, simply because of the phrase “In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems,” here.
I’ve said this before:
in a lot of cases, the kids are overweight because the parents are overweight, as well. No parent [who takes proper care of their child regardless of weight issues] intentionally wants to jeopardize their child’s livelihood. In a lot of cases, the child’s weight is a mirror of the weight of the parents, and is simply living out the consequences of the parents’ behavior. It’s not an issue of abuse, unless you want to say that the parents are abusing themselves, as well. (And if you were to say that, I’d implore you to remember – it’s very rare that people even acknowledge sugar/food addiction as a legitimate addiction at all, so you’d be hard pressed to get anyone to understand that.)
And you know what? I amend that. The parent doesn’t have to be overweight at all. The parent simply has to believe that “the key to weight loss” is a matter of will power, or that you can have “everything in moderation,” or any other of the foolish marketing slogans we hear every single day. That’s enough to make a parent decide that, no, they don’t have to change the food that’s available in the house; no, there’s no problem with how they live at all. The problem is simply their child’s ability to control themselves… they’ve got no will power. If following the typical weight loss advice can leave us with a 60% obese population, surely it’d leave our children in equally dire straits.
There’s also the matter of leaving our children in the hands of our government. Suppose we did agree to this. Is there any evidence that the government knows how to feed our children? Have you looked at a school lunch program near you?
I didn’t think so.
For Ludwig to be so connected to Robert Lustig, whose work on sugar is easily a cult classic on the Internet and has been chronicled on this blog, and not know about sugar, its harmful effects and how prevalent it is in our current food supply is amazing. For him to be an expert on obesity and have, seemingly, no desire to acknowledge food addiction… is mind-boggling. To not know of these things, yet suggest something so drastic as removing children from their homes… well, it leaves me sad about the state of our country’s knowledge of food and their bodies.
As I said before,
…and really, that’s my point. Removing a child from a home that has the potential to be much healthier with a little bit of education is ludicrous. If you’re going to reach into someone’s home, let it be to offer a hand of support and resource. It’s much more likely that the whole family could use the help, so if we’re going to intervene, that’s the way to do it. If you remove a child from the home and place them in foster care, I’m assuming we’re putting them in a home that’s already been educated on how to care for the child? I’m assuming each of these homes has been taught weight maintenance procedures? Why not simply teach the child in the comfort of their own home and family on how to handle these issues?