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Michelle Obama's Plan to End Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Goal: Cut Child Obesity From 20% to 5% by 2030
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 11, 2010 -- Spearheaded by Michelle Obama, a new presidential initiative would reverse the child obesity epidemic.

The goal, as set out in a report from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, is to reduce childhood obesity from 20% to 5% by 2030.

To accomplish this, the plan makes 70 recommendations for early childhood, for parents and caregivers, for school meals and nutrition education, for access to healthy food, and for increasing physical activity.

"For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time," Obama says in a news release.

U.S. kids haven't always been obese. Only one in 20 children ages 2 to 19 was obese in the 1970s. But around 1980 child obesity began to rocket to today's stratospheric level: Nearly one in three kids is overweight or obese, and nearly one in five is frankly obese.

Everyone knows obese kids face worse health than their normal-weight peers. What this means is that higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and lung disease may lower children's life expectancy below that of their parents.

Other effects are becoming apparent. The U.S. armed forces now warn that one in four Americans aged 17 to 24 is too heavy for military service.

To reverse these trends, the White House plan seeks to cut child obesity and overweight rates by 2.5% by 2015 and by 5% by 2020. It's not a vague goal. Scorekeeping will be up to the CDC, which reports child obesity rates every two years.

Other measurements:

  • The number of children eating a healthy diet as measured by the USDA Healthy Eating Index. A score of 80 out of 100 indicates a healthy diet. Today's score: 55.9.  The goal is to score 65 by 2015 and 70 by 2020.
  • The amount of sugar in children's diets.
  • The amount of fruits and vegetables in children's diets.
  • The number of children meeting yet-to-be-established physical activity guidelines.

 

Fighting Obesity in Early Childhood

The White House plan makes 12 recommendations for early childhood. Key elements of these recommendations are:

  • Educate and help women conceive at a healthy weight and have a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Encourage and support breastfeeding.
  • Federal and state agencies should prioritize research into chemicals in the environment that may cause or worsen obesity.
  • Educate and support parents in efforts to reduce kids' screen time (i.e. less time watching television and using digital media and more time being physically active).
  • Improve federal early childhood programs' child nutrition and physical activity practices.

 

Fighting Childhood Obesity by Empowering Parents and Caregivers

The White House plan makes 13 recommendations for empowering parents and caregivers. Key elements of these recommendations are:

  • The federal government should work with local communities to spread the word about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the next generation of the food pyramid.
  • The FDA and USDA should work with the food and beverage industry to develop standard nutrition labels for packages.
  • Restaurants and vending machines should display calorie counts of all items offered.
  • The food and beverage industry should extend its voluntary self-regulation to restrict all forms of marketing to children. If this does not happen, federal regulation should be considered.
  • Media and entertainment companies should limit licensing of popular characters to healthy food and beverage products.
  • Insurance plans should cover services needed to help prevent, assess, and care for child obesity.

 

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