In part two of my look at the White House Task Force’s report on childhood obesity, I focus on some of the action-oriented suggestions that in my opinion, should already be in place.
The report recommends that restaurants reconfigure children’s’ menus – take away the mac & cheese or chicken fingers and substitute plain or whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce or a piece of grilled chicken, vegetables, or a salad instead.
Marketing and advertising unhealthy foods should be limited. How about advertising something besides McDonalds or soft drinks on Saturday mornings. One town has even gone so far as to ban toys in fast-food kids’ meals. Will it help? At least the kids won’t ask for the meal to get the toy. And maybe mom can convince them to try a healthier alternative.
Nutritional standards for school lunches need to be revised, with salad bars replacing French fries as a staple. Schools also need to promote healthier behaviors through both education and action – unfortunately with many districts short on funds, team sports, gym classes, and even recess periods are being cut. That has to change. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a whole campaign about that – and it slowly seems to be catching on.
Some communities are already taking the lead, with efforts like “walking school bus” programs. Instead of a regular yellow bus, parent chaperones walk the bus route with the kids, picking up more kids along the way. This is a great method to encourage physical activity for both kids and adults, and save the local district money.
The report also calls on Federal, state and local governments to provide more park space and access to recreational areas, but falls short on addressing how this is going to be paid for. In New York, the Governor is closing access to some state parks because of the budget mess. Other states and municipalities are having similar fiscal issues.
Many neighborhoods, especially in urban areas, are not safe enough for kids to play outdoors. However, in a nod to the reality of video games, the report also encourages game makers to develop ways to engage kids in more physical activity. Wii Fit, anyone?
Of course, parents are a big part of determining whether these initiatives will succeed. But they can’t do it alone. The Task Force recognizes that everyone – from physicians, to the cafeteria lunch ladies and the local park ranger – all have important roles to play in eliminating this serious health concern. Obesity leads to all kinds of other health problems – diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, low self esteem, and even premature death.
The need is obvious. Our kids’ health is literally at stake. Parents, caregivers, health professionals, Federal agencies, along with public and private organizations must work together to turn an action plan into results. President. Obama and Congress need to come up with the funds. I will bet that with the First Lady 100 percent behind this effort, they will find a way.
What are some of your suggestions for getting kids off the obesity treadmill? Join the discussion!