First Lady Releases 70 Steps To Preventing Childhood Obesity

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Michelle Obama Obesity

WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity received a boost Tuesday when the government issued its road map for tackling the problem, including encouraging more women to breast-feed.

The report recommends 70 specific steps that all levels of government, the private sector, schools, parents and others can take. Mrs. Obama has said her goal is to solve the problem within a generation so that babies born today can come of age at a healthy weight.

RELATED: Michelle Obama: Why I’m Fighting Childhood Obesity

One in three American children is overweight or obese, increasing their risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses, and contributing to high health care costs. Some public experts say children today are on track to live shorter lives than their parents.

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The recommendations touch on all parts of the “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign Mrs. Obama launched this year, including giving information to caregivers, serving healthier food in schools, making healthy food cheaper and more available, and getting children to exercise more.

The first lady has spoken publicly about many of the recommendations.

RELATED: Black Children At Greatest Risk For Childhood Obesity

“We know we have the tools. We know we have the resources to make this happen,” she said. “And now … we have a road map.”

The report set 2030 as a benchmark, saying her goal of reversing the epidemic could be achieved if rates fall back to 5 percent by then.

In emphasizing prenatal care to get children off to a healthy start, the report says a woman’s weight before pregnancy and her weight gain while pregnant are important factors that determine childhood obesity. Studies have found that about 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese by age 6, and that more than half of obese children become overweight before age 2.

The report recommends that women be at a healthy weight at conception and that they avoid excess weight gain during pregnancy. The report also stressed the benefits of breast-feeding; studies have found that babies fed this way are 22 percent less likely to become obese.

Other recommendations call for:

—Restaurants to consider portion sizes and begin posting calorie information as the new health care law requires.

—Updated federal nutrition standards for meals served at schools and more school-based nutrition education. Congress is working on updating the guidelines. Legislation that cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee would spend an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years on school nutrition programs; the Obama administration has asked for an additional $10 billion over the period.

—Incentives to lure supermarkets to underserved rural and urban areas.

—Pediatricians to get in the habit of checking their patients’ body mass index, a height-weight calculation used to measure body fat.

—A standard nutrition label on the front of packaged foods.

—The food industry and beverage industry to limit the marketing of unhealthy products to children, with government regulation as a last resort.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement that it has reduced the amount of sugar, fat, calories and sodium in more than 10,000 products and promised further improvement.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, applauded the administration for making childhood obesity a national priority. The report includes benchmarks to help measure progress, and Wootan said her organization will be watching.

“We definitely won’t sit back and hope for the best,” she said. “We’ll keep their feet to the fire.”

A dozen federal agencies, including the departments of Education, Agriculture, Health, Interior and Transportation, participated in the Childhood Obesity Task Force, which President Barack Obama created in February.

The panel had 90 days to issue a report, and it sifted through more than 2,500 suggestions from the public.

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