17 October 2009

Michelle Obama: I thought we had our stuff together.

Nearly one out of three children in the USA are overweight or obese, with that number rising to one half in African American and Hispanic communities.  Focusing on the profound implications of these growing numbers, First Lady Michelle Obama discussed her concern over the diminished quality of life for affected children in an appearance at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on October 16, 2009.

Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start kids on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. 

Ms. Obama discussed the challenges that today’s parents, particularly working mothers, face in consistently providing healthy meals and snacks for their children. She shared some of her personal stories with this struggle.
"...I got a little tap on my shoulder from our kids' pediatrician who basically said, "You know, you may want to look at changing the way your children are eating," because he could see the effects. And I was shocked. I thought we all had our stuff together.

But it's a little startling when somebody tells you you need to, you know, rethink things. So you just try to figure out, well, where do you begin, what do you change, how can you change things? But what I found was that if we start small and not try to bite off too much, if we just added a few more fruits and vegetables into every single meal, if we cut down on sugary drinks and processed fruit -- foods, that we could see some changes.

The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rate among adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled!

What can be done?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines, the first to be issued by the federal government, present science-based recommendations to help persons aged 6 years or older improve their health through physical activity.

Read Ms. Obama's full remarks online.  Visit CDC.gov to learn more about the contributing factors, prevalence, and statistics of childhood obesity and get tips for parents interested encouraging healthy eating habits and making sure that their kids' lifespan is longer than their own.


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