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Michelle Obama recommends childhood obesity prevention Posted: June 6th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

With nearly one-third of U.S. children overweight, childhood obesity is quickly becoming a national epidemic. The startling trend points to a crisis that affects not only our health, but our pocketbooks as well.

According to numerous health studies, the future does not look bright for our children. Some 112,000 people die each year from obesity related illnesses. The expanding waistlines of our children mean that a third of them are likely to develop potentially fatal diabetes. Even more sobering is that, for the first time ever, our younger generation may have a shorter lifespan than that of their parents.

We pay approximately $147 billion in health care costs for obesity annually. Obese adults can expect to spend $1,429 more each year for medical care than adults of a normal weight. All this adds up to a hefty price tag for Americans.

Michelle Obama's Plan for America

To address the many medical issues plaguing America--from the lack of cheap health insurance to decreasing life spans--First Lady Michelle Obama created the Let's Move initiative. The nationwide campaign targets childhood obesity and has set ambitious goals.

Recently, her White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity issued a report to the President. The report outlined the health struggles facing the nation and made recommendations in the following categories:

  • Early childhood
  • Empowering parents and caregivers
  • Healthier food in schools
  • Access to healthy, affordable food
  • Increasing physical activity

The 70 recommendations in the report are intended to improve overall health, provide resources to families and help manage the cost of health care. Here are 10 recommendations from the First Lady's report:

  1. Distribution of breastfeeding information
  2. Both health care providers and insurance companies should provide expectant and new mothers information regarding the importance of breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are 22 percent less likely to be obese than formula fed infants.

  3. Breastfeeding support services
  4. Although 74 percent of babies are breastfed initially, only 43 percent are still breastfed by 6 months of age. That number drops to 23 percent by 12 months. The Obama report recommends that health care providers and insurance companies provide pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers information on breastfeeding and support programs.

  5. Restaurant improvements
  6. Not only should restaurants adjust meal portion sizes, they should work to implement overall menu changes. Healthy options should be the default choice whenever possible.

  7. Insurance plan assessments
  8. Private health plans should cover preventative services for children including assessment and treatment for obesity. Parents should look for these benefits when purchasing a plan and making a health insurance comparison.

  9. HealthierUS Schools Challenge
  10. School lunches should be redesigned to meet new nutrition standards. The report encourages schools to make improvements through the federal HealthierUS Schools Challenge.

  11. School gardens
  12. Taking a lead from Obama's White House garden, the task force recommends that schools use class gardens to help students learn about healthy food choices.

  13. Eliminate food deserts
  14. Food deserts are areas, either rural or in city cores, where access to grocery stores and healthy eating options is limited. Local governments should work to encourage supermarkets in such areas or create public transit routes to food retailers.

  15. Cash for healthy foods
  16. Economic incentives should be made available to food producers who provide healthy fare such as fruits, veggies and whole grains.

  17. Make sports child's play
  18. The recent trend in "pay for play" sports has blocked many children from lower income families from participating. The report recommends that states and local agencies work to decrease sports costs.

  19. Increase Playgrounds
  20. Finally, no neighborhood is complete without a playground. The Obama report urges an increase in the number of safe parks and playgrounds, particularly in low-income areas.