Change. It’s a familiar word that’s become the backbone of a powerful presidential campaign and family that’s altered the face of the United States of America. The First Family has not only exemplified leadership potential in government, but also inspired countless Americans to question individual potential and what “next generation” America could possibly look like. As President Obama has his hands wrapped up in pressing legislative and economic concerns, First Lady Michelle Obama has taken on an enormous task: childhood obesity.
She shares, “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 First Lady’s government and community-backed Let’s Move initiative is up against a national health crisis though. One in every three children ages 2-19 is overweight or obese, and causing an estimated 3 billion dollars in direct medical costs per year. One third of all children born in the year 2000 are expected to develop diabetes during their lifetime, and unsurprisingly, this generation may have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Obesity causes approximately 112,000 deaths per year in the United States, and obese adults incur an estimated 1,429 dollars in medical costs per year. Nationally, medical spending on adults attributed to obesity topped an estimated 40 billion dollars in 1998, but in 2008, had increased to approximately 147 billion dollars.
Certainly, the First Lady and Let’s Move have their work cut out for them. They aim to create a healthy start for children, empower parents and caregivers, provide healthy food in schools, improve access to healthy affordable foods, and increase physical activity. These goals sound like a recipe for success, but the question remains if government-sponsored initiatives and nonprofit organizations can truly change individual eating habits on a mass scale.
The old saying goes, “you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to be helped.” And frankly, looking at the statistics, it’s clear that many Americans are choosing to eat unhealthy food and ignore the need to exercise. American culture revolves around the mantra, “faster is better.” Fast food remains a multi-billion dollar industry, primarily providing consumers with unhealthy, processed meals. TV dinners have ruled supermarket aisles for decades, impacting the lives of Americans since the 1950s. And frozen food appears to be more convenient than preparing meals with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.
It’s not simply about putting more fresh food options in local communities or encouraging more Americans to jog each morning. It’s not just teaching kids to exercise and showing them that it’s fun. It’s not just encouraging schools to serve healthier options to students and faculty. It’s about changing an entire culture.
Americans move too fast.
They don’t take the time to eat. They don’t know their bodies well enough. They overlook how stress, workload, and environment all contribute to holistic health. And often times, they believe that being healthy is an unattainable goal.
The First Lady and Let’s Move are allies in creating a cultural shift for Americans to pay more attention to their bodies, but they’re not saviors by any means or capable of catalyzing a movement. If Americans want their children to grow up healthier, eat better, and exercise more frequently, it has to start in the home. There has to be a family lifestyle change and undying dedication to eat healthy and be fit no matter how far they have to travel to get fresh groceries, how many hours they have to dedicate to exercising, or how many articles and books they must read to learn more about health.
The dynamism of the American people is the solution to childhood obesity. The First Lady is an inspiring face for the media, but the people are the key to real “change” in American health.
The First Lady says, “Let’s Move.” But first, Americans must think and understand that no one is going to save them from the consequences of obesity. Change is an individual effort.
Source: “The Challenge We Face”