Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move task force is out with its “action plan” that includes 70 recommendations, with some very encouraging words related to the provision of and access to urban parks. The report is extensive and covers nearly all of the issues related to childhood obesity, grouping them into five categories as follows:
- Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; adherence to limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
- Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help parents make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
- Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.
- Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.
- Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.
There’s really a lot to consider here — and parks relate in a number of ways from the food provided in agency programs and vending machines to community gardening. But the most directly related section is that on the built environment — how to get kids safely to and from parks, traveling around in healthier ways and spending more time in healthful places. In this, the task force specifically recommends to “Increase the number of safe and accessible parks and playgrounds, particularly in underserved and low-income communities.”
There remains much to do to accomplish the actions laid out in this report. But as First Lady Michelle Obama said, “For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time.” “We want to marshal every resource – public and private sector, mayors and governors, parents and educators, business owners and health care providers, coaches and athletes – to ensure that we are providing each and every child the happy, healthy future they deserve.”