The Fat Kid Epidemic

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.


6 thoughts on “The Fat Kid Epidemic

  1. Great post. I agree that this should all be common sense, but the truth is somehow society has moved away from common sense, whether it’s feeding our families packaged processed foods, or putting too much value in sitting passively in front of the television. We’ve lost our way!

  2. I’m so glad you’re tackling this subject. I have a few friends with fat to obese children. It seems there are more than ever, as you said. At every turn, there are unhealthy choices tempting our children. The dispensers and machines in our schools are undoing the good intentions of parents, worse yet is their unlimited access “credit card” approach in the lunch rooms now. Children swipe a card and buy whatever they want. Heck you don’t even need a card, as long as you have a pin number. One of the boys in our middle school went hog wild during the beginning of the year by stealing 7 other children’s pin numbers and eating three to five separate lunches a day. Once he was caught, the question on everyone’s mind was “where are the lunch aides?”

    Great blog, Liz.

  3. It is common sense that parent and caregivers should be making sensible choices but it takes a village so we also need schools to help by serving healthier meals and unplugging the coke and pepsi dispensers and candy machines. Looking forward to your follow up postings on this subject. Very interesting.

    1. thanks for the comment, Wendy. I agree, everyone needs to work together to resolve this issue. In part 2, I will review some of the report’s specific recommendations in the four key areas. Stay tuned.

  4. You’re right that the most sensible recommendations are those parents and caregivers should be doing anyway, but I guess we need to work together “as a village” with schools helping to make it happen by serving healthier meals and finally, uplugging the coke and pepsi dispensers. Looking forward to your follow ups on the topic. Great info.

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