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Teens with severe obesity turn to surgery and weight-loss drugs

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Science reporter JoNel Aleccia working with photographer Jae Hong and videographer Eugene Garcia explored the effect of new guidelines for treatment of kids with severe obesity that came out in January.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that doctors consider new obesity medications for kids as young as 12 and bariatric surgery for those as young as 13.

Working with medical experts, Aleccia contacted and spoke with nearly a dozen kids and families who had turned to the medications and surgery to help lose large amounts of weight to reverse life-threatening conditions linked to obesity. Over and over, though, they declined to be identified in stories for fear of the backlash they would face, mostly on social media. It took weeks to find families willing to speak publicly about the treatments and what they would mean to the child’s health. The result, though, was a multiplatform text, photo and video story that movingly examined why these families found it necessary to treat kids with severe obesity early, hoping to avoid carrying the disease into adulthood, with potentially dire consequence for their health and longevity.

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