Overweight Teens: Parents At Fault?

He weighs 550 pounds, and he's 14 years old.

Alexander Draper, from Travelers Rest, S.C., was at a "stage of critical health risk," police said, due to neglect.

Who's to blame? Police have charged Jerri Gray, his 49-year-old mother, in the case.

"There have been opportunities to get Alexander some treatment over the course of the last several months and, unfortunately, some of those things have not been taken advantage of," said Lt. Shea Smith, of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office.

After skipping a custody order in South Carolina, mother and son took off in a white, handicap-accessible van. But last week, they were found at a laundromat in Maryland when authorities traced Gray's cell phone.

Draper has been in Child Protective Services' custody in Baltimore, Md., while his mother is in jail. Gray waived extradition and authorities expect them to return to South Carolina on Thursday.

Shea said, "The unfortunate thing is that obviously her son is certainly in need of some medical attention."

The Department of Social Services said they don't get involved in cases based on a child's weight alone, but will take action in cases where healthcare professionals believe a child is at risk of harm because a parent is neglecting to provide necessary medical care.

Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said on the show Thursday that parents have a role in nourishing their children and providing preventative medical care.

"...When there is a medical condition, (parents) have a role in facilitating and enabling that child to have the proper medical care," Ashton said, adding that includes doctor's appointments, medication and surgery, if necessary.

Ashton said Draper's condition is an extreme case and his condition is critical.

What about kids who aren't in a critical state, but are still overweight or may become so?

Ashton suggested parents be role models for their kids, talk with their doctor, and talk with the child.

"Explain to the child that their concern is not just for their internal health," Ashton said, "but for their life."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity among children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled over the past 20 years, and in the same span, obesity has more than tripled among children 12 to 19.

Ashton said obesity puts children at risk for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, skin and joint problems, a fatty liver, sleep apnea, early puberty for girls, and asthma.

Obesity is measured by the body mass index (BMI). To be defined as overweight, a child must be at or above the 85 percent for their BMI for their particular age. Above 95 percent for age, a child is considered obese.

Ashton said if your children are in one of these groups, you should seek medical attention.

She said, "This is not something you can handle at home."
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