New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) recommend a focus on family lifestyle in the prevention and management of child obesity.

The new guidelines released Monday come from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which operates under the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to develop clinical practice guidelines to help in delivering preventative health care.

In addition to a focus on family lifestyle, the guidelines calls for routine medical checkups for children.

"We recommend growth-monitoring throughout a child’s life,” Dr. Patricia Parkin, chair of the task force's child obesity guideline working group, told CTV News Channel. “It should begin immediately in the newborn period and at every appropriate visit.”

Parkin also recommended family-centred weight management programs with oversight from doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners to tackle the growing problem of obesity in young Canadians.

“What’s probably happening is a multitude of changes in our society and our families,” she said. “It’s not just one issue, it’s multiple issues.”

Monday's recommendations are the first update to childhood obesity guidelines in more than 20 years. The guidelines are aimed at helping primary-care practitioners address what the task force calls a "major public health issue."

The guidelines include a number of key recommendations for doctors, including behavioural interventions for overweight children focused on exercise, healthy nutrition, and lifestyle changes. The group found that the most effective interventions involved family members of the child.

The task force also recommended growth monitoring of height, weight and body mass index for all children and youth under the age of 18, abiding by World Health Organization Growth Charts for Canada.

"Children naturally gain weight as they grow; by regularly measuring and plotting a child's growth, a physician or nurse can determine if the child is maintaining a healthy growth pattern or if he or she is at risk of being overweight or obese," said Dr. Paula Brauer, another member of the working group.

The guidelines also warn against drug treatment and surgery referral for overweight or obese children and youth.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled since the 1970s, with approximately 32 per cent of Canadian children and youth classified as overweight or obese, according to the CMAJ.

The task force calls for more research into effective methods for obesity prevention in children and youth, especially at the primary-care level.