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National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September 8, 2010

Workout at Noon Chow

Our guest columnist today is President Barack Obama… Just kidding. Actually, what we have here is a quotation from the Presidential Proclamation that was issued on the first day of this month, to announce the first National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, September 2010:

Our history shows that when we are united in our convictions, we can safeguard the health and safety of America’s children for generations to come.

By now we have all heard the dreary statistics — in America, nearly one child in three is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, asthma and cancer, and obesity-related illness costs us $150 billion per year. The kids are suffering. These are all good reasons to make the elimination of childhood obesity a national goal.

The President mentions the “Let’s Move” initiative headed by Michelle Obama. He mentions the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, which has produced a comprehensive report, full of recommendations. It’s pretty clear what needs to be done, though opinions differ on how to do it. Schools need to serve better food and set limits on treats that can be sold on site. Somehow, kids also need to be dissuaded from thwarting the adults’ good intentions. Everybody needs to get more exercise. No matter whether the mechanism is direct or indirect, exercise does tend to reduce obesity.

Parents and caregivers do need to have good information about healthful dietary choices, and so do the kids. But that is only a start, and the complications are too multitudinous to cover in a presidential proclamation. As we know, all the information in the world doesn’t help a person who just doesn’t care, or doesn’t somehow possess the life skills to form an intention and follow through with it. And even a ton of excellent information about nutrition can’t help the residents of a “food desert.” So there is a lot of work to be done, for sure.

A website called Healthier Kids Brighter Futures offers ways to get informed, get connected, and get involved. It phrases the numbers in another way: Defining children as people aged two through 19, it could be said that more than 23 million American kids are overweight or obese. As is usually the case with social problems, minority groups are hit the hardest. Healthier Kids Brighter Futures encourages the leaders of states and cities to get on the bandwagon and recognize the Childhood Obesity Awareness Month — if not this year, then to plan ahead for next year. Chances are, the problem will still be with us in 2011. And the site’s creators remind us of a very important principle: Small steps can add up to a very big difference.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Presidential Proclamation — National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,” White House press release, 09/01/10
Source: “All About National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,” Healthier Kids Brighter Futures
Image by Jim Legans, Jr, used under its Creative Commons license.

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