First lady: Let’s work together to reverse childhood obesity
December 29th, 2010
09:06 AM ET

First lady: Let’s work together to reverse childhood obesity

Editor’s note: This week, The Chart is taking a closer look at the most important health stories of 2010. One was the growing problem of childhood obesity – something that first lady Michelle Obama is trying to fight with her “Let’s Move!” initiative.

By Michelle Obama
Special to CNN

Since my husband first took office, one of my primary missions - one that I care deeply about as both a first lady and a mom - has been to confront the challenge of childhood obesity so that all our children can lead healthy lives right from the beginning.

Today, one in three American children is either overweight or obese. Doctors are now starting to see conditions like hypertension and type 2 diabetes in children that they used to only see in adults –- conditions that cost our country billions of dollars a year to treat. And today, too many of our children are actually on track to lead shorter lives than their parents.

None of us wants this kind of future for our kids or for our country. Here in America, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children, and our hopes for their future should drive every decision we make.

That’s why, nearly a year ago, we started Let’s Move! - a nationwide campaign with a single, ambitious goal: to reverse our epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation, so that kids born today can grow up at a healthy weight. And we’re working with leaders from every sector of our society - educators, medical professionals, mayors and governors, business and faith leaders, and others - to fulfill that goal.

In just the first year of Let’s Move!, food industry leaders have pledged to reduce calories in the foods they offer. The American Academy of Pediatrics has committed to screening children for obesity at every well child visit. Professional athletes from the NFL, Major League Baseball and other professional leagues have signed on to serve as role models and encourage kids to stay active. Through our Chefs Move to Schools program, more than 2,000 professional chefs have signed up to help local schools prepare healthier meals. Parents and kids all across the country have visited our website - Letsmove.gov - for tips on staying active, preparing healthy, affordable meals and more.

And earlier this month, Congress passed the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a historic piece of legislation that will ensure our kids get the basic nutrition they need to learn, grow, and succeed in school and in life.

This act gives an additional 115,000 children access to school meal programs, and it cuts red tape so that it’s easier for families to sign up. It reimburses schools an additional 6 cents per meal –- the first real increase in over 30 years –- so they can offer healthier, more nutritious meals for their students. It connects schools with local farmers, making it easier for them to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to students and boosting the local economy as well.

And because we know that ultimately, ensuring that kids eat right and stay active is the responsibility of parents - not government - this legislation empowers parents by providing them with new information about what’s in the meals their kids are eating at school each day.

I meet so many parents who are doing everything they can to keep their kids healthy. They’re trying to cut down on desserts. They’re trying to serve more fruits and vegetables. They’re trying to teach their kids good habits that will last a lifetime.

But when our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well. Parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or the vending machine in the hallway. And they have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards.

That’s why this legislation is so important. And that’s what Let’s Move! will continue to focus on in the coming year: supporting parents as they work to keep their kids healthy, and working together to give all our children the bright futures they deserve.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.