How to Stop Childhood Obesity

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Executive Summary

Parents across America are deeply concerned about their children’s health and the epidemic of childhood obesity. One out of every three children is now overweight or obese, a condition that places them at greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer over the course of their lives. This is not the future we want for our children, and it is a burden our health care system cannot bear. Nearly $150 billion per year is now being spent to treat obesity-related medical conditions.

Fortunately, there are clear, concrete steps we can take as a society to help our children reach adulthood at a healthy weight. Following these steps will put our country on track to solving the problem of childhood obesity.

My recommendations focus on the four priority areas set forth in the Memorandum, which also form the pillars of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Campaign: (1) empowering parents and caregivers; (2) providing healthy food in schools; (3) improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and (4) increasing physical activity. In addition, we have included a set of recommendations for actions that can be taken very early in a child’s life, when the risk of obesity first emerges.  

My recommendations are not simply for Federal action, but also for how the private sector, state and local leaders, and parents themselves can help improve the health of our children. The Task Force will move quickly to develop a strategy for implementing this plan, working in partnership with the First Lady to engage stakeholders across society  

Introduction

Obesity is defined as excess body fat. Because body fat is difficult to measure directly, obesity is often measured by body mass index (BMI), a common scientific way to screen for whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. BMI adjusts weight for height, and while it is not a perfect indicator of obesity, it is a valuable tool for public health. Adults with a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 are considered overweight, those with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese, and those with a BMI of 40 or more are considered extremely obese (National Institutes of Health). For children and adolescents, these BMI categories are further divided by sex and age because of the changes that occur during growth and development. Growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are used to calculate children’s BMI. Children and adolescents with a BMI between the 85th and 94th percentiles are generally considered overweight, and those with a BMI at or above the sex-and age-specific 95th percentile of population on this growth chart are typically considered obese. Determining what is a healthy weight for children is challenging, even with precise measures. BMI is often used as a screening tool, since a BMI in the overweight or obese range often, but not always, indicates that a child is at increased risk for health problems. A clinical assessment and other indicators must also be considered when evaluating a child’s overall health and development.

The childhood obesity epidemic in America is a national crisis. Many scientists believe that the current generation is on track to have an even shorter life span than our parents, and it’s all because of childhood obesity within today’s youth. There are many suggestions that I would recommend to change this epidemic, for instance maybe getting better food in the lunch rooms or even increasing physical activity in and out of school. My recommendations focus on the four areas in which we can help today’s youth. Empowering parents and caregivers; providing healthy food in schools; improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and increasing physical activity would be the four areas I would change.

Those changes include:
1. Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; adherence to limits on “screen time”; and...
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