By Mimi Johnson, NCL Health Policy Associate
While the thought of ‘moving’ in the knee-deep snow outside here in the nation’s capitol might be a bit daunting at the moment, the First Lady just announced an initiative to get American youth active and to make childhood obesity a thing of the past in a generation.
Let’s Move seeks the support and resources of a community to reach and teach children about making healthier choices. The initiative brings together families, schools, private industry, and government, in an effort to make an easier transition to healthier living. NCL commends the First Lady and the many different sectors for reminding us to take responsibility for the health, well-being and future of a generation.
According to Michelle Obama, “it’s not about being 100 percent perfect, 100 percent of the time.” Herself a fan of french fries and a good burger, the First Lady said, “there’s a place for cookies and ice cream, burgers and fries – that’s part of the fun of childhood.” With one out of every three children overweight or obese, this has become a $150 billion a year issue that transcends politics. As Obama reminded us all, we need to take the necessary steps today to ensure a generation of kids won’t be lost to this epidemic.
In conjunction with the launch of Let’s Move, the President issued a memorandum establishing the first-ever national task force on childhood obesity. Through cross-department collaborations with the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Education, this bi-partisan effort is anchored by four pillars – nutrition information, increased physical education, easier access to healthy foods, and personal responsibility.
More specifically, some of the initiative’s elements include:
- Empowering Consumers: By the end of this year, the Food and Drug Administration will have collected research, conducted dialogue with the industry, consumers and experts, and completed guidance for retailers and manufacturers to adopt new nutritionally sound and consumer friendly front-of-package labeling. This will put us on a path towards 65 million parents in America having easy access to the information needed to make healthy choices for their children. Many are already answering FDA’s call – including the nation’s beverage industry who are taking steps to provide clearly visible information about calories on the front of their products, as well as on vending machines and soda fountains.
- A prescription for healthier living: The American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with a broader medical community, will educate doctors and nurses across the country about obesity, ensure they regularly monitor your child’s Body Mass Index, provide counseling for healthy eating early on, and even write a prescription for parents laying out the simple things they can do to increase healthy eating and active play.
- Next Generation Food Pyramid: To better help the public make healthier food and physical activity choices, the US Department of Agriculture plans to revamp the famous food pyramid symbol and online interactive tools. MyPyramid.gov is one of the most popular websites in the federal government and a 2.0 version of the Web site will offer consumers a host of tools to put the Dietary Guidelines into practice.
- Empowering Change: The USDA has created the first-ever Food Atlas, an interactive database that maps components of healthy food environments down to the local level across the country. This information can be used by all sectors – including parents, educators, government and businesses – to empower and create change across the country. It will include tools to identify the existence of food deserts, high incidences of diabetes, and other conditions in their communities.
- Let’s Move start-up tools: This spring, Let’s Move will provide parents with simple and easy to use tips and toolkits to help get them moving. Check back for Let’s Move toolkits, including your interactive family contract to set your goals, pick your activities, and track your success.