First Lady to Lead National Childhood Obesity Initiative
February 4, 2010 | Ginny
When we think of the United States of America, there might be a few key pictures that enter our minds: baseball, apple pie and…fast food? Over the years, fast food has become associated with American culture. Children especially have come to associate fast food with rewards, special days and celebrations. Whether it is the fun toys, the play places or the mesmerizing advertisements, there is a certain spark about fast food that draws children in – and continues drawing them in through adulthood.
Fast food, as well as the large variety of sugary and fattening junk food that adorns grocery store shelves, has played a large part in the child obesity epidemic witnessed over the years within the U.S. It might come as a surprise, then, that a study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics found that child obesity rates have actually slowed in growth over the past several years. Despite these results, there is little reason to celebrate. We still live in a nation where a third of our children are obese and in African American and Latino communities, the number reaches nearly 50%.
In the State of the Union Address given by President Obama last Wednesday, he mentioned a national movement to address the issue of childhood obesity, which will be led by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama recently announced her initiative to combat childhood obesity at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C., where she was discussing the issue.
As a mother herself, she said she is familiar with the business of being a working parent and struggling to feed her family healthy, balanced meals. Even though it’s easier to eat cheaply and less healthy in a rough economic climate, Mrs. Obama stated the importance of good nutrition, especially for children. The new childhood obesity initiative, which will launch next month, will employ greater communication between the federal government and local schools, businesses and non-profits on the importance of healthy eating. These communications will cover a variety of topics, such as increasing the number of schools where students can have access to healthy foods, techniques to provide children with more opportunities to be physically active and ensuring that low-income communities have access to healthy food options.
Erie Family Health Center has been dealing with the child obesity head on. Erie’s B.A.L.A.N.C.E curriculum (Building Lives Around Nutrition-Centered Education) aims to provide physical and nutritional education to elementary-aged children at Erie’s school-based sites. This program allows students at both Ryerson and Henson Elementary Schools, where high levels of childhood obesity exist, to have the opportunity to learn about ways to eat and live healthy lives through fun games and activities. Parents are also given information on healthy nutrition and exercise habits, which allows children to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it into practice at home.
If Mrs. Obama’s program proves to be successful, it might not be long before we see other programs, like Erie’s B.A.L.A.N.C.E. program, springing up at the community level. One thing is for certain, though: becoming a healthier nation goes far beyond health care reform – it comes down to our day-to-day choices about how to treat our bodies. If we learn to make healthy choices, especially as children, then we will be on our way to living healthier, happier lives.