Let’s Move America: Behind Michelle Obama’s Vision for America’s Children

(image via AP)

(image via AP)

In February 2010, Michelle Obama announced the Let’s Move initiative. Let’s Move’s objective is to end childhood obesity in the United States. At the launch of Let’s Move, Michelle Obama stated, “the physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.” In the past three decades, America’s childhood obesity rates have tripled. Statistics show that nearly one in three children are considered overweight or obese. Statisticians project that if steps are not taken to prevent obesity, then “one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives.” Obese children run the risk of “heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.”

Mrs. Obama’s initiative has been credited with increasing public awareness about obesity and support for government involvement in preventing obesity.  A Pew Survey, in 2011, reported that most Americans believe that the government should work to reduce child obesity. Prior to 2011, many Americans opposed using federal funding to combat obesity.  The Let’s Move initiative has also been linked to healthier school meals. In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  The Act increased federal funding for school meals in addition to giving the Agriculture Department the authority to decide the health standards for food available in the nation’s public school cafeterias and vending machines.  The biggest accomplishment of the Act was that it created a streamlined process to establish whether a child is eligible for free or reduced meals, which in turn increased the number of children who qualified for healthy and nutritious meals.

Many food service companies have pledged to serve foods with government recommended levels of fats, sugars, and whole grains in support of Let’s Move.  Small changes in school programs like the ones initiated by Mrs. Obama often have significant effects. A 2008 study, which compared ten schools in Philadelphia—half with high-sugar snacks and beverages and the other half with healthy options—showed that after two years, twice as many students at the school with no intervention became overweight.  The Let’s Move campaign has propelled healthy eating changes nationwide.

Mrs. Obama’s efforts are truly laudable. Obesity is not only associated with negative personal effects but also with costs to the nation.  Health care costs associated with obesity have been estimated at as high as $150 billon a year.  Studies also show that obesity can result in a loss of productivity in the workplace and the capability of the military.  Forty percent of the army’s applicants are obese and 50 percent of recruits are unable to pass the army’s basic fitness test.  Promoting healthy eating on the elementary school level has to power to shape young people’s relationships with food early on and prepare children for healthy eating as adults.

The biggest critique of Mrs. Obama’s obesity agenda is that there has not been much progress in forcing big food companies to change their marketing to kids, who also still have access to junk food and sodas in schools.  Even though Mrs. Obama’s Lets Move initiative has not solved the issue of our nation’s obesity epidemic, it has had positive tangible effects.  The greatest contribution of Let’s Move is that the Obama Administration has set the stage for what the government can do later on in the area of food policy.  The small strides that have been made by Mrs. Obama have put America on the right path to curbing childhood obesity and addressing the fact that we have a generation of children with shorter life expectancies than their parents. With continued government intervention, we will hopefully have a healthier nation in due time.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Move America: Behind Michelle Obama’s Vision for America’s Children

  1. I think you make some great points about the path that the Let’s Move campaign has put this country on. We still have a long way to go to solve the obesity epidemic we face, but this program is a solid start and hopefully it will be built on by future administrations. Also, if diabetes doesn’t wake people up to the importance of nutritious diets, hopefully the astronomical cost of health issues related to obesity will.

    • Well written and thought provoking article on the childhood obesity crisis in America. The journey to educate families about healthy eating and the dangers of obesity will have a major impact on our health care system in the future. Throughout history there are documented struggles regarding what is good for the country versus corporate power and greed. We can all contribute to that struggle just as you have by writing this article.

  2. This article is timely and awakens dormant concerns regarding our general fitness issue . Diet and fitness , viewed conjunctively with mental health and the epidemic of depression, is the defining battlefield of the future. An obese and depressed America will be both unable to lead the free world and to salvage itself. In this context, it is clear that consumption-itis is the cause of our obesity issue and the widespread psychosis of fleeting satiation. We must lead ourselves back to moderation in all things material or suffocate from the weight of disappointment .

  3. This is a great article that addresses a very important topic. I think the government has taken steps in the right direction, but sadly I don’t think the problem will go away until parents get more involved. It will do no good for a child to have a healthy lunch at school if he is just going to come home, grab three Twinkies from the pantry, sit in front of the TV with a Mountain Dew, and play six hours of X-box live with a headset on. Parents need to be more involved in requiring that their children get outside more and remain active, limit the amounts of TV and video games that the children can play, and teach their children about moderation. Have a healthy meal followed by ONE small snack or something… then go outside and play street hockey with the neighborhood kids. I feel way too young to be saying “Back in my day.. we used to have a snack and play whiffle ball in the backyard until it got dark.”.. but we did. I know this is an article about a particular government initiative, not parents.. But I think it’s up to the parents to push a healthy life style at home.. that will REALLY produce results.

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