Let's Move: Michelle Obama Issues a Challenge to Reverse Childhood Obesity

BlogHer Original Post

For the first time in history, the United States is raising a generation of children expected to live shorter lives than their parents. More and more children are fighting diseases, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, that used to only show up in adults. As a country, we're spending $14 billion per year in direct costs for health care for obese children.

Last week, Michelle Obama rolled out the Let's Move initiative, an effort to use a variety of strategies to help roll back to the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country. The initiative has four primary focus areas:

  • Healthy Choices: This component focuses on helping parents and caregivers make better nutrition and physical activity choices for their children, recognizing that everyone's busy, and families need easy ways to help guide their kids to better health.
  • Healthier Schools: School lunches are notoriously unhealthy, and the initiative seeks to change that. School meals tend to feature highly processed, cheap food that doesn't provide the nutrition that kids need to be able to learn, grow and be truly healthy. One blogger who is drawing attention to the problem of unhealthy school lunches is Mrs. Q of Fed Up: School Lunch Project. She's eating school lunches every day in 2010, just like the kids at her school, and writing about what she learns along the way. Let's Move aims to raise standards for school breakfast and lunch programs.
  • Physical Activity: Though the CDC recommends 60 minutes of active, vigorous play for children every day, most kids don't get near that amount, thanks to distractions like television, video games, and computers. Let's Move hopes to reverse this trend, not just by providing information for families and schools about ways to increase kids' movement, but also by changing the old-school President's Physical Fitness Challenge to something that rewards activity, not just the number of minutes kids can hold a flexed-arm hang or how many sit-ups they can do in a minute.
  • Accessible & Affordable Healthy Food: Though the United States seems like a country overflowing with food, there are many low-income and rural communities that are considered food deserts: places where community members have little or no access to healthy, fresh, affordable food. As Let's Move gets under way, the program plans to release tool kits and other information to help increase communities' access to better food options.

Michelle Obama Let's Move 2010
Credit: © The U-T San Diego/ZUMApress.com

The Childhood Obesity Task force has 90 days to put together its comprehensive plan on how to meet the Let's Move objectives. In her press conference launching the initiative, Michelle Obama made clear that this effort is going to take years of work to really turn around the childhood obesity problem in the United States, but affirmed that this is important work. In her speech to launch the effort, she said:

"And I know that in these challenging times for our country, there are those who will wonder whether this should really be a priority. They might view things like healthy school lunches and physical fitness challenges as 'extras' -- as things we spring for once we've taken care of the necessities. They might ask, 'How can we spend money on fruits and vegetables in our school cafeterias when many of our schools don't have enough textbooks or teachers?' Or they might ask, 'How can we afford to build parks and sidewalks when we can't even afford our health care costs?'

"But when you step back and think about it, you realize -- these are false choices. If kids aren't getting adequate nutrition, even the best textbooks and teachers in the world won't help them learn. If they don't have safe places to run and play, and they wind up with obesity-related conditions, then those health care costs will just keep rising.

"So yes, we have to do it all ... We'll need to make some modest, but critical, investments in the short run ... But we know that they'll pay for themselves -- likely many times over -- in the long run. Because we won't just be keeping our kids healthy when they're young. We'll be teaching them habits to keep them healthy their entire lives."

Here are some places where bloggers are talking about the Let's Move initiative around the web:

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She also tells stories with photos at 5x52.

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