First lady begins fight against childhood obesity

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by Darlene Superville

WASHINGTON (AP)—Michelle Obama on Feb. 9 unveiled “Let’s Move”—her public awareness campaign against childhood obesity in the U.S., a problem she says concerns her both as first lady and as a mother.

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LET’S MOVE—First lady Michelle Obama points out some student athletes as she announces a campaign to combat the rapidly growing problem of childhood obesity, Feb. 9, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.

One in three American children is overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses. And public health experts say today’s kids are on track to have shorter lifespans than their parents.

“None of us wants this future for our kids,” Mrs. Obama said at the White House. “We have to act, so let’s move.”

Her campaign has four parts: helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in school vending machines and lunch lines, making healthy food more available and affordable, and encouraging children to exercise more.

The ambitious campaign, which Mrs. Obama hopes will be seen as her legacy, is aimed at solving the childhood obesity problem in a generation, so that children born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight.

“This isn’t like a disease where we’re still waiting for the cure to be discovered. We know the cure for this,” Mrs. Obama said at the unveiling.

Major elements of Mrs. Obama’s campaign include:

•The Food and Drug Administration working with food manufacturers and retailers to make food labels more “customer-friendly.”

•The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging doctors to monitor children’s body mass index or BMI, which is a calculation of height and weight used to measure body fat.

•Serving healthier food in schools. More than 31 million children get meals through the federal school lunch program, and many kids eat up to half their daily calorie total at school.

•Offering $400 million in tax breaks to encourage grocery stores to move into “food deserts,” areas with limited supplies of nutritious food.

•Encouraging children to exercise more; an hour a day is recommended.

•Setting up a website, http://www.letsmove.gov, with shopping tips, a recipe finder and other resources.

Judith Palfrey, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the problem needs a national solution.

“So having the president and first lady take the lead on this, particularly the first lady, the first mom, is giving us the reinforcement that we’ve needed,” Palfrey told The Associated Press.

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