HHS Launches Childhood Overweight, Obesity Prevention Initiative
First Lady Laura Bush today saluted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' new Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative, announced today at the National Prevention Summit, which targets obesity prevention and the promotion of healthy weight for children.
Mrs. Bush delivered the keynote address at the summit, an annual HHS-hosted, cross-sector event that highlights new approaches to prevention and health promotion.
"Good health starts with good habits. By educating ourselves about our bodies -- and by taking simple steps to protect them -- we can prevent or delay some of today's most common and devastating health conditions," said Mrs. Bush.
"Our government is working to address one of the greatest dangers to America's young people: childhood overweight and obesity. Nearly one in five school-age children in the United States is overweight and the problem seems to be getting worse. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is launching a new effort -- led by the acting surgeon general -- to coordinate and expand our government's existing childhood-overweight and -obesity prevention programs."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) (1976-1980 and 2003-2004) show that prevalence of childhood overweight is increasing. For children aged 2-5 years, the prevalence increased from 5.0 percent to 13.9 percent; for those aged 6-11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5 percent to 18.8 percent; and for those aged 12-19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0 percent to 17.4 percent.
"Overweight children have a higher risk of being overweight or obese as adults, and facing the health problems that can result," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "Parents, government officials, community and education leaders must work together to help the children. I'm pleased that Rear Admiral Steven Galson, the acting surgeon general, is leading this important initiative."
As chair of HHS' Childhood Overweight and Obesity Coordinating Council, Rear Admiral Galson will work with HHS officials and community stakeholders as they develop and foster programs that share the goal of providing options for community-based interventions. The programs include
-- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's School Health Index: A Self-Assessment and Planning Guide;
-- National Institutes of Health's We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition) program;
-- Indian Health Service's diabetes prevention activities;
-- Food and Drug Administration's Using the Nutrition Facts Label to Make Healthy Food Choices activities; and
-- President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports' National Fitness Challenge.
The National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play, announced by Mrs. Bush, will help Head Start programs evaluate their playgrounds, and educate children and their families about the value of healthy food and structured physical activity. HHS' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) will oversee a competition for a $12 million, four-year grant to establish the center and will allocate up to $10 million to fund the construction or improvement of Head Start playgrounds
"Early childhood is the best time to instill healthy habits," said Daniel Schneider, ACF acting assistant secretary. "Childhood obesity has enormous implications for individual development. This initiative will help to reduce the number of children at risk for becoming obese."
Also during the National Prevention Summit, nine organizations and businesses that have implemented creative health promotion and chronic disease prevention programs were honored as national Innovation in Prevention Award winners.
"Congratulations to the award recipients on their ingenuity and teamwork," said Secretary Leavitt. "Their efforts reinforce how important it is that we think creatively, join forces and learn from each other in order to make a collective impact on our nation's health and future."