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As part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging its members to check the body mass index, a number that takes into account height and weight, of all children at every checkup. Children and parents also will get a prescription for healthy, active living that they can discuss with their doctors.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
Several top nutrition and fitness experts offer their ideas for changes that need to be made to combat childhood obesity:

Clean up school food. “School food is the hottest area being addressed around childhood obesity,” says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “What is served at school is important not only because of the direct impact on children’s diets, but also for the message that it sends children about healthy eating. If schools are selling all sorts of unhealthy foods, it’s telling children it’s OK to eat those foods whenever they want as opposed to teaching them that candy bars and soda pop are treats to be eaten occasionally.”

Offer healthier foods in school vending machines. “Thankfully there are a lot of schools that have switched to healthy vending, but it’s important that we have nutritional standards for all foods served throughout the school,” says Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association, which represents professionals who prepare, serve and plan school meals.

Stop junk food advertising to kids. “I love what the White House is doing, and in addition it will be important to tackle the powerful and pernicious influence of food marketing directed at children,” says Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

Give kids more physical activity at school. “We know kids need at least an hour a day of physical activity, and we should design the school day including before and after school time to ensure that happens,” says Charlene Burgeson, executive director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Change communities. We need a policy that “mandates that every time a building permit is issued, the developer/contractor must include green space for parks, playgrounds and community gardens, sidewalks and bike trails, and areas for markets that feature local produce,” says Melinda Sothern, director of pediatric obesity research at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. “This would change the face of America and the size of its youth.”

Her daughters were 6 and 9, and Michelle Obama was like any other working mom — struggling to juggle office hours, school pick-ups and mealtimes. By the end of the day, she was often too tired to make dinner, so she did what was easy: She ordered takeout or went to the drive-through. She thought the girls were eating reasonably well — until her pediatrician in Chicago told her he didn’t like the weight fluctuations he was seeing.

“I was shocked because my kids looked perfectly fine to me,” Obama says. “But I had a wake-up call.” Like many parents, however,

“I didn’t know what to do.”Today, the self-described “mom in chief” is launching Let’s Move, a campaign to help other parents deal with a national health crisis she describes in epic terms.

The goal: to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.

“It’s an ambitious goal, but we don’t have time to wait,” the first lady said in an interview with USA TODAY in her spacious office in the East Wing of the White House. “We’ve got to stop citing statistics and wringing our hands and feeling guilty, and get going on this issue.” … [read full article here]

By Mimi Hall and Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY



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