Michelle Obama is spearheading a new obesity plan with the goal to reduce childhood obesity substantially by the year 2030. With current rates of childhood obesity estimated at around 20%, the target rate for 2030 would be a rate of 5%. In order to accomplish this lofty goal, nearly 70 recommendations are included in the new plan, with the target audience for action including parents, caregivers and schools. It's important to note that back in the 1970s, rates for childhood obesity did hover around 5%. With soaring rates impacting little children and teens,we are now seeing an impact even on recruiting for the armed forces. Too many overweight individuals ages 17-24 are being turned away from joining the army because of their weight issues. The plan also includes a mandate to the CDC to keep score and track the impact (success) of the plan on obesity rates during the next 15-20 years.
Some of the features in the plan target healthier eating, as measured by the USDA Healthy Eating Index (a score of 80 or better indicates a healthy diet). Other measures seek to reduce consumption of sugar and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. Guidelines for physical activity are still evolving. Of course, it is important to target women who are thinking of getting pregnant or pregnant already, since a healthy child begins in the womb. Key goals are to encourage a healthy diet and weight gain during pregnancy, and to emphasize the goal of breastfeeding for the first several months of life (or longer). Reducing TV viewing time, video gaming and encouraging physical activity are other goals.
Parents need to work on better home nutrition, cooking more at home, increasing availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthier protein sources and have fewer processed foods at home. The food industry needs to provide more nutrition information and develop some basic nutrition standards. There should be less advertising to kids and less licensing of popular characters to food companies. Schools need to offer healthier meals and snacks, less unhealthy vending machine products and more nutrition education. Of course, more physical fitness is a priority as well. Other measures target better access to healthy foods, especially in urban and poor settings.
Finally we need entertainment and technology companies to create programs that offer more physical movement. Communities need to upgrade playgrounds and parks so that they are safe and inviting. These changes will more than likely take years to implement but just raising awareness is a start.
Published On: May 12, 2010