In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama joined with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to launch the Let’s Move campaign against childhood obesity. The unhealthy choices kids make today can bring consequences the rest of their lives. And those lives may not be as long as their parents’. For the first time in history, the United States faces the very real possibility of a decrease in life expectancy.

The government is getting involved because the obesity epidemic in children will lead to even more obesity in adults, which will further lead to a greatly increased toll on our public sector. If the obesity trend is not reversed, more people will develop diabetes, more people will suffer from debilitating joint pain, more people will have strokes, and more people will become unable to work and have to rely upon public assistance.

Let’s Move has four components:

  1. Educate and support parents
  2. Provide healthier food in schools
  3. Help children be more active
  4. Ensure that healthy, affordable food is available everywhere in the country

Better Educated Parents

The parent education component is key, particularly when children are young. Children don’t often choose what they are going to eat. Parents choose, and parents also choose how the children will spend their free time, too. When parents understand the consequences of their choices, they will make better decisions on behalf of the children they love.

As part of the parent education component of the Let’s Move program, the AAP recommends that pediatricians measure their patients’ body-mass index (BMI) at every well child check-up beginning at age 2, and then discuss the results with parents. When necessary, the pediatrician should write a prescription for healthy living, with recommendations on food choices and how to encourage the children to be more active.Healthier School Lunches

Many children eat half of their daily calories at school, so it’s important that those calories are packed with nutritional value. If unhealthy choices are unavailable, children will develop a palate for healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will work with schools and with partners in the private sector to double the number of schools that meet the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge. Major school food suppliers are reworking their menus to decrease fat, salt, and sugar in their foods, and to increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains they serve.

More Active Children

Parents and children can have fun together earning the President’s Active Lifestyle Challenge award. [link: http://www.presidentschallenge.org/the_challenge/active_lifestyle.aspx

For six weeks, adults must document at least 30 minutes of activity per day, six days a week, and children must document at least 60 minutes per day, six days a week.

It is hoped that by the end of the challenge, this level of activity will become a habit, and will be maintained after the award is earned. Once a person earns the President’s Active Lifestyle Challenge award, he or she can work toward becoming a President’s Champion.

Mrs. Obama has also called upon the help of professional sports organizations such as the National Football League to help in this effort. The NFL and other pro sports organizations will help motivate and inspire kids to become more active by showing how fun it can be.

Available, Healthy Food Nationwide

Some of the poorest people in this country are also the most prone to obesity because poverty-stricken people are more likely to live in areas where fresh, healthy food choices are either not available or are prohibitively expensive. These low-income areas, both urban and rural, are more than a mile from the nearest supermarket, and the people who live here often do not have reliable transportation. In conjunction with the Let’s Move campaign, the government plans to provide financing to bring supermarkets and grants to bring farmers markets into the food deserts.

For more information about this exciting new campaign in the war against childhood obesity, visit www.letsmove.gov

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.