Today, we are one step closer to reaching First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of solving the epidemic of childhood obesity in our country. Nearly one-third of children in America are overweight or obese—a rate that has more than doubled for younger children and tripled for adolescents over the last 30 years. In response to this health crisis, the First Lady is leading a national public awareness effort called “Let’s Move!” to improve the health of our children. Today, the Childhood Obesity Task Force, of which I am a member, released its action plan to tackle childhood obesity within a generation.
Twelve federal agencies and thousands of parents, teachers, health practitioners, and others provided input that is reflected in the report’s 70 recommendations. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But I am confident that we will succeed if we work with parents and youth and with stakeholders across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Many of the task force recommendations can be enacted immediately. Others will take longer. The report includes benchmarks to measure progress toward our goal.
At the federal level, the Department of Education is making available $35 million in grants to schools that can support physical education programs. But all of us can take responsibility for ensuring that our children grow up healthy. All of us need to model positive behaviors—such as walking or biking to work, ensuring that family recreation time includes opportunities to be physically active, and eating nutritious foods.
Today, Washington, D.C. The parents and teachers there demonstrated that a focus on health and physical education can have a powerful impact on children’s well-being and achievement. Recognizing that children had no access to a safe park or playground, parents applied for and recently received grants to build an outdoor classroom on the school’s grounds. Parents and teachers also are working with local organizations to incorporate a yoga and fitness component into Tyler’s after-school program. Also in the after-school program, coordinators offer cooking classes that educate children on the importance of nutrition. On the horizon are partnerships with farm-to-school networks that will incorporate locally grown produce into the school’s lunch program.
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Results at Tyler are promising. Children and families have a better understanding of how to make healthier choices. Test scores are up, and the teachers and parents notice that the children are more engaged in their learning. Through the First Lady’s leadership and by learning from examples such as the healthful programming and partnerships at Tyler Elementary School, our goal of ending childhood obesity can be achieved. I look forward to collaborating with states and local communities to implement the task force recommendations and to learning more about promising efforts to improve our children’s health across the country.
Secretary Arne Duncan