This is the first of a two-part look at the childhood obesity epidemic, and what a certain First Lady thinks should be done about it.
There was always one in every class, or at least one in every grade. The fat kid. The one that couldn’t run during recess, and was always thrown out during stickball games because he was too slow. He was the kid that was always your team’s catcher, because he didn’t have to move, and no one could knock him down.
Or the fat girl – the one that couldn’t wear the miniskirt; that no boy wanted to be seen with, that never had a date for the dance. She was the one you always felt sorry for, but once you got to know her, she turned out to be really sweet.
Unfortunately, our country has gone from the one fat kid in class to an epidemic of childhood obesity. In the early 1970s, about five percent of kids age 2-19 were considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. By 2008, that percentage had more than tripled. In fact, among 6-11 year olds, the rate climbed from about 6.5 percent to 19.6 percent from 1976-2008! What’s going on here?
Yesterday, The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released its report to the President –they’re calling it an action plan – to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. First Lady Michelle Obama is spearheading this campaign, called Let’s Move – so you can bet the President’s going to pay attention.
The goal of Lets Move is to get that obesity rate back down to around 5 percent by 2030. This is a national epidemic, and one agency alone can’t solve the problem. That’s why the task force included members from a dozen different Federal agencies – from Agriculture to Education, Health and Human Services to the Federal Communications Commission. The report focuses on four key areas: (1) giving more control to parents and caregivers; (2) serving healthier food in schools; (3) better access to healthy, affordable foods; and (4) boosting physical activity. Additional recommendations on early childhood prevention are also included.
Many of these recommendations, like encouraging more mothers to breastfeed, or giving kids fruit instead of cookies as snacks, are just common sense. Some of the most sensible recommendations are ones that parents and caregivers should be doing anyway:
“Recommendation 1 10: The Federal government, incorporating input from health care providers and other stakeholders, should provide clear, actionable guidance to states, providers, and families on how to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and reduce screen time in early child care settings”
We don’t really need the government to tell us that kids should play outside more and watch TV less. What we need are the playgrounds, ball fields, and other safe, supervised places for them to do so.
In part two of this summary, I’ll look at some of the recommendations on food, activity, and what it’s going to take to make this effort a success.