Michelle Obama: October 2012

Image from instyle.com

Who is she?

Michelle Obama was born in Chicago on the seventeenth of January nineteen sixty four. She is the First Lady of the United States of America and founder of the Let’s Move campaign which she set up to solve the problem of obesity in America.

Michelle Obama is a qualified lawyer who graduated first from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology followed by Harvard Law School. After graduating from Harvard, she worked for a law firm in Chicago, specialising in marketing and intellectual property.

After her marriage in nineteen ninety two, she left her job in the private sector for a career in the public sector. She went on to work in a range of roles, first as assistant commissioner of planning and development for the City of Chicago and then as executive director of the office of Public Allies in Chicago, a not for profit leadership training programme for young adults who wish to develop careers in the public sector. This was followed by a stint as associate dean of student services at the University of Chicago, executive director of community relations and external affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals and vice president of community relations and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

She continues to be involved in a range of activities, programmes and boards including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

 

Why she is inspirational

Michelle Obama is leading a campaign called Let’s Move! to end childhood obesity in the United States. The campaign was set up in February two thousand and ten to promote healthier foods in schools, better food labelling and more physical activity for children.

Image from letsmove.gov

She believes that the trend towards obesity must be of serious concern and that the physical and emotional health of America’s children is in fact a matter of national security.

Her goal is to solve the problem of obesity within a generation.

She is also involved in other causes such as supporting military families and women with balancing career and family, promoting the arts and encouraging national service through volunteering. She is perhaps better known globally for the work she is doing on healthy eating and for planting the first vegetable garden in the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt.

She supports the organic food movement and as part of this she invited students from a local school in Washington in March two thousand and nine to install a beehive and plant an eleven hundred square foot garden in one of the lawns of the White House. The students return periodically to harvest the food and learn to cook the vegetables. In two thousand and ten, she turned her attention to tackling childhood obesity in response to soaring obesity rates amongst American children over the course of the last thirty years.

At the time of the launch of the campaign, twenty percent of children in America aged between six and nineteen years old were described as obese and a third as overweight. The rate of childhood obesity had tripled in the twenty years between nineteen eighty and nineteen ninety nine. The results is an epidemic which, if left unchecked, will lead to a generation of children born from the year two thousand having shorter life spans than their parents due to chronic obesity and its associated health problems – high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, hepatic steatosis, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are a number of factors that contribute to childhood obesity. These include genetic factors, behavourial factors and environmental factors.

Image from hellomagazine.com

Let’s Move! aims to address the root causes of obesity by understanding the causes and effects of this trend and comparing the lifestyles of children three decades ago with children today.

Thirty years ago, most children had a healthy weight based on a lifestyle which involved walking to and from school, running around at school, participating in after school sports activities and playing outdoors at home. Then, most children ate home cooked meals, including vegetables, which were reasonably portioned. Fast food eating was also discouraged as was eating in between meals.

These days, children are driven to school by car or the school bus; sports activities have been cut back and instead of playing outdoors after school, children spend their time in front of the TV, on the internet, playing video games or on the mobile phone. It is estimated that children aged between eight and eighteen years old spend on average seven and a half hours a day on one or more of these entertainment devices.

Because parents are much busier, fewer home cooked meals are provided for children who now snack regularly between meals. Instead of a snack a day that children had thirty years ago, many eat three snacks a day and twenty percent of children are reported to eat up to six snacks a day. The average child now consumes an extra two hundred calories a day. Sweetened drinks contain up to twenty ounces of sugar at a time and Americans consume fifty six percent more fats and oils and fifteen pounds of sugar a year than they did in nineteen seventy.

Image from homorazzi.com

By drawing attention to these facts, the Let’s Move! Campaign hopes to motivate Americans and in particular children to make different choices and provide information to parents to help them also make different choices. The campaign objectives include creating a healthy start for children, educating and empowering parents, providing healthy foods in schools, increasing access to healthy foods and encouraging more physical activity.

Image: Beyonce performing in Let’s Move video

In December two thousand ten, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed to provide funding for school meals and child nutrition programs. This included a requirement for a national standards for foods sold at schools, from meals to snacks in vending machines.

Let’s Move! provides guidelines for parents to develop healthy eating habits. It encourages mothers to eat healthy foods when pregnant and has made available a plan called My Pyramid Plan for Moms to create a personalised healthy diet plan. The organisers believe that everyone has a role to play in addressing childhood obesity, from parents and elected officials from all levels of government to healthcare professionals, schools, community organisations, and private sector companies.

Engaging adults in examining their own habits is believed to be the key to tackling the problem of childhood obesity. However, although many childhood obesity and nutrition professionals support the campaign, they point out that it is only a first step in addressing what is a very difficult challenge. Experts who were interviewed a year after the campaign was launched felt that changing behaviour is going to be a lot more challenging than raising awareness, repackaging products and putting numbers on menus. Simply put, obese children usually have obese parents. Changing the trend will involve changing what people eat as well as their levels of physical activity.

Some argue that the government has to go further to combat the toxic environment that sustains childhood obesity through subsidies for farms to grow nutritious foods and for schools to ensure that food quality and physical exercise are not compromised. In addition, further research is required to find creative solutions to tackle the epidemic.

Michelle Obama has pledged to make this issue her mission. : “In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.”

The prediction is that the problem will get worse before it gets better.

Michelle Obama in her words:

Image from thefeministwire.com

Childhood ObesitySummit

“Our kids didn’t do this to themselves. They don’t decide the sugar content in soda or the advertising content of a television show. Kids don’t choose what’s served to them for lunch at school, and shouldn’t be deciding what’s served to them for dinner at home. And they don’t decide whether there’s time in the day or room in the budget to learn about healthy eating or to spend time playing outside.”

C-Span televised event 

“If I could make those kinds of changes and it could help my family in such a significant way, I wanted to make sure that we were doing that with the rest of the country…If I’m having this problem in my household and I don’t know it, then what’s going on with everybody else?”

 

Signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

“Child hunger and child obesity are really just two sides of the same coin. Both rob our children of the energy, the strength and the stamina they need to succeed in school and in life. And that, in turn, robs our country of so much of their promise.”

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference

“Childhood obesity isn’t some simple, discrete issue. There’s no one cause we can pinpoint. There’s no one program we can fund to make it go away. Rather, it’s an issue that touches on every aspect of how we live and how we work.”

 

Press conference announcing childhood obesity task force report

“We don’t need new discoveries or new inventions to reverse this trend. We have the tools at our disposal to reverse it. All we need is the motivation, the opportunity and the willpower to do what needs to be done. …With this report, we have a very solid road map that we need to make these goals real, to solve this problem within a generation.”

Grocery Manufacturers Association

“As a mom, I know it is my responsibility—and no one else’s—to raise my kids. But what does it mean when so many parents are finding that their best efforts are undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at their kids? And what are these ads teaching kids about food and nutrition? That it’s good to have salty, sugary food and snacks every day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner?”

Let’s Move live web chat

“We are living in a time where we just don’t have enough time. People are rushed. They’re over worked, over scheduled. Not enough resources. …But the thing that I want people to understand in this campaign is that families can make small manageable changes in their lives that can have pretty significant impacts.”

NAACP 101st National Convention

“African American children are significantly more likely to be obese than are white children. Nearly half of African American children will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. People, that’s half of our children. …We can build our kids the best schools on earth, but if they don’t have the basic nutrition they need to concentrate, they’re still going to have a challenge learning.” –

 

National League of Cities conference

“In the 10 cities with the nation’s highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and obesity-related diseases are roughly $50 million per 100,000 residents. And if these 10 cities just cut their obesity rates down to the national average, all added up they combine to save nearly $500 million in healthcare costs each year.”

School Nutrition Association

“Kids who participate in school meal programs get roughly half of their calories each day at school. … This is an extraordinary responsibility. But it’s also an opportunity. And it’s why one of the single most important things we can do to fight childhood obesity is to make those meals at school as healthy and nutritious as possible.”

Let’s Move launch announcement

“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake. This isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved overnight, but with everyone working together, it can be solved. So, let’s move.”

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