Michelle Obama's Let's Move Obesity Challenge Launches Today

2010-02-09 13:21

In a news conference Tuesday at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced a national effort to combat childhood obesity called The Let’s Move Campaign. The program will focus on what families, communities, and the public and private sectors can do to help fight childhood obesity.

It started off being personal – Mrs. Obama received a startling message from the family pediatrician that her children were starting to get off-track with their weight and warned her to get it under control before it caused health problems. She relays in a message in early January “In my eyes, I thought my children were perfect. I didn’t see the changes.”

Parents not recognizing weight gain in their children is very common – and not a sign that the family is being inattentive to their children. Doctors across the country see parents who are just not knowledgeable about appropriate weight standards for children, or about basic health and nutrition practices that can prevent excess weight gain. In a 2007 national poll from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, parents were asked to report on their oldest child’s height and weight, and gauge whether or not it was a healthy size for their age. About 40% of parents of obese children ages 6 to 11 perceived their children’s weight status to be “about the right weight.”

Unfortunately, however, it is estimated that about 17% of American kids and teens are obese and one-third are overweight. Adding to the issue is that doctor visits are often too short to allow a physician to tactfully and appropriately work out a detailed, practical nutrition plan. Schools are also caught in a predicament – nutrition programs are under a tight budget without a lot of resources of education for children to learn about healthy choices and appropriate serving sizes.

Understanding this issue firsthand, Michelle Obama launches today a government initiative to combat the issues that surround childhood obesity. The campaign, however, is not to promote the achievement of a particular weight or dress size, but instead to emphasize the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity. Her message – “Small changes can lead to big results.”

President Barack Obama signed a memorandum this morning creating a task force on childhood obesity. Mrs. Obama released her four-planked approach – improve nutrition and physical education in schools; promote activity such as walking and biking in community planning; make healthy food more available, particularly in poor areas; and make nutrition information on food packages clearer. As a start, the Obama administration is requesting an investment of an additional $10 billion over the next 10 years to improve the quality of the school lunch and breakfast programs, increase the number of kids participating, and ensure that schools have the resources they need to make program changes.

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) applauds the First Lady’s efforts. “Too often, children’s health gets lost in the discussion of what meets the standard of a critical need for students’ educational success,” says NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn. “If we can improve children’s health, then we can improve their futures.”

Michelle Obama recognizes that government “telling people what to do” will not change the current trend of both adult and childhood obesity. She told USA Today, “Let’s Move operates under the principle that every family wants the same thing for their kid (to be at the top of their game in every way, shape and form). So we’re going to figure out how to make it easier for them to get it.”

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