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Michelle Obama Makes Obesity Her Big Effort

Photo: White House

A new initiative by First Lady Michelle Obama called Let’s Move will try to tackle the childhood obesity problem in the United States. Citing an obesity rate that has tripled in the last thirty years and $150-billion in related treatment costs, the First Lady is making this one of her primary tasks while in the White House.

At an event yesterday, President Obama signed a memorandum establishing an advisory Task Force to be chaired by Ms. Obama and make recommendations for the following objectives:

  • Ensuring access to healthy, affordable food;
  • Increasing physical activity in schools and communities;
  • Providing healthier food in schools; and
  • Empowering parents with information and tools to make good choices for themselves and their families.

Pictures like this from Atlanta's Piedmont Park show the value of parks to getting kids active. (Photo: Piedmont Park Conservancy)

Specifically, the task force is being asked to submit: a plan for agency coordination; specific strategies for each agency to complete; key benchmarks to measure and assess this work; a plan for identifying research; legislative and policy proposals; and areas of collaboration with public and nongovernmental actors. Members of the task force include the heads of the Departments of Interior, Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and administration officials.

The inclusion of the Department of Interior infers that parks will play some role in this effort. In addition, the Let’s Move website indicates that, “to increase physical activity, today’s children need safe routes to walk and ride to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers where they can play and be active after school, and sports, dance or fitness programs that are exciting and challenging to keep them engaged. Let’s move to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and create new opportunities for families to be moving together.”

There are a number of ways parks could be included in this effort, from establishing benchmarks for urban residents to have nearby parks and playspaces, better utilizing schoolyards as public spaces, supporting programs that support urban youth programs at recreation centers and supporting transportation (and other urban) policies that encourage walkable cities. (If a child cannot walk to their nearby park that already exists, they will not use it for physical activity.)

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