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Today is Childhood Obesity Day at the White House

Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama says she loves burgers and fries, but she wants her daughters – and the rest of America’s children – to learn about better nutrition and exercise.

On Tuesday, she is launching Let’s Move, a nationwide campaign to fight childhood obesity.

In an interview in Tuesday’s USA Today, Mrs. Obama said the campaign will encourage more physical activity for children, healthier food in schools and more accurate food labeling. Some of her initiatives, such as tax breaks for grocery stores to move into poorly served communities, will require congressional action.

“I would move heaven and earth to give my kids all the chance in the world for them to be at the top of their game in every way, shape and form,” Mrs. Obama told the newspaper. “Let’s Move operates under the principle that every family wants the same thing for their kid. So we’re going to figure out how to make it easier for them to get it.”

“Healthy foods” in school is a red herring. Kids actually gain more weight during the summer than they do at school, but blame-the-parents never really goes over well in politics. From 2007:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The nation’s schools often are blamed for the growing numbers of overweight youth, but a national study by sociologists at Indiana University and Ohio State University found that young children actually got fatter during their summer breaks than while in school.

“Schools have been getting a bad rap,” said IU Bloomington Professor Brian Powell. “This isn’t to say that schools can’t improve — but we found that kids’ weight gain is more under control during the school year than during summer break. This suggests that instead of thinking of schools as the problem, schools appear to be part of the solution.”

The study, appearing in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health, was co-authored with Powell by OSU sociologists Paul T. von Hippel and Douglas B. Downey, and Nicholas J. Rowland, a doctoral student in IU’s Department of Sociology.

The researchers examined the BMI growth rates of 5,380 kindergartners and first graders using the National Center for Education Statistics Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort. BMI is calculated using a person’s weight and height and provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. Higher numbers often mean higher proportions of body fat. The BMIs of children in the study increased on average more than twice as much during summer breaks, with Hispanic and African-American students seeing even larger increases. This gap in the growth rate of Hispanic and African-American students’ BMIs did not exist during the school year.

The study’s results led researchers to conclude that school diet and exercise policies contribute less to childhood obesity than what children do outside of school. The data do not point to the cause of the BMI acceleration over summer break, but the authors wrote they “conjecture” that the school day is more structured, with less opportunity for snacking, than the time students spend out of school. They suggested that school-based interventions aimed at helping kids learn healthy habits should “target children’s behavior not only during the school hours, but also, and most importantly, after the bell rings.”

Michelle Obama can make all the suggestions she wants, but it’s the parents who need to be targeted and all of the rest seems like a giant waste of resources.


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