JAMA 27 Jun 2007 Vol 297

I grew up a weedy kid, but at least that was better than being a fat kid. There were not many of those in the northern England of my early youth, and they suffered all the more for it. There is something horrible in our psyche that urges us to condemn overweight children as Billy Bunters, greedy and morally flawed, and they grow up feeling that way, even if they do not get thrown off a cliff like the fat boy in Lord of the Flies. Nowadays they also get lectures on how they will grow up unhealthy, get diabetes, and die before their parents. But can they do anything about it, other than curl up in misery and comfort eat? The Bright Bodies programme had a marked effect on children from mixed ethnic backgrounds in New Haven, Conn: it consisted of twice weekly sessions of exercise, dietary advice, and how to handle problems like bullying. Their families were also closely involved.

Another study shows the dreadful unfairness of childhood cancer: the price of a cure is often a life of ill-health, beginning in early adulthood, as this Dutch study demonstrates. Radiotherapy to the brain is particularly likely to cause cognitive damage later, and most treatment modalities are associated with bad effects on the heart, kidneys and especially the joints.

With all this childhood obesity in the United States, is the incidence of type 2 diabetes in teenagers increasing? Probably, though this study (SEARCH) was cross-sectional and simply shows that type 1 still predominates in under-20 year-olds in most ethnic groups in the USA, though American Indians are at very high relative risk of early-onset type 2 diabetes (MODY).

Recent European studies have shown a high prevalence of cerebral palsy in survivors of extremely premature birth (20-27 weeks), but this Canadian study paints a relatively optimistic picture over a thirty-year period. Up to 1994, survival of these infants was accompanied by a steady rise in cerebral palsy: but since then, survival has continued to improve but CP rates have fallen, to about 14% in this group at 2 years.