First Lady Michelle Obama today unveiled what she described as a “roadmap” to combat childhood obesity.
Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation: The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report – released by the White House as part of its Let’s Move initiative – offers broad recommendations for youth-serving organizations and government agencies. It focuses on helping parents and caregivers engage in best practices, providing healthy food in schools, improving access to healthy affordable food, and increasing physical activity.
Rather than breaking significant new ground, the report brings together existing research and offers benchmarks to measure success in combating a problem that currently affects nearly 20 percent of America’s children and youth – a figure the report calls for driving down to 5 percent by the year 2030.
Speaking at a news conference to unveil the report, the first lady said childhood obesity is not something that requires a lot of innovation to solve. “We don’t need new discoveries or new inventions to reverse this trend,” Obama said. “All we need is the motivation, the opportunity and the willpower to do what needs to be done.”
The White House task force is concentrating on raising consciousness about the obesity problem and highlighting effective practices to tackle it.
The section of the report most applicable to youth programs is that dealing with increasing physical activity, including after-school activities and community recreation venues, as well as school-based approaches. That section highlights the Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Model in Massachusetts.
The ELT model involves 22 schools in Massachusetts that launched community partnerships with youth-serving organizations such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and community centers to connect youths to the organizations’ staff and facilities.
In addition, three middle schools in Boston involved youths in ballet, swimming and break-dancing through partnerships with the Boston Ballet, Charlestown Community Center and Boston Centers for Youth and Families and Bird Street Community Center.
The report also discusses the need for healthier foods in schools, after-school programs and juvenile justice facilities.
It calls for eliminating “food deserts” (neighborhoods without decent grocery stores within a certain radius) and for persuading food producers to reduce marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
In terms of finding the resources to put effective programs into effect, Obama called for collaboration between the public and private sectors and other stakeholders, such as health care professionals and philanthropists.
“We are calling upon mayors and governors; and parents and educators; business owners and health care providers – anyone who has a stake in giving our children the healthy, happy future that we all know they deserve,” Obama said.