A Critical Look at Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative

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In an article published Sunday, the LA Times takes a hard look at First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" program, examining how the campaign to battle childhood obesity has been faring in its first year and what it can expect to actually accomplish.

While many experts believe the initiative is an important step in raising national awareness about childhood obesity, the LA Times points out there is also some skepticism about how much change the public awareness program can effect in a culture "where junk food abounds and outdoor play continues to lose ground to controllers and computers."

The paper speaks to five specialists in the fields of nutrition and childhood obesity to get their takes on the four aspects of "Let's Move!" Here's a brief overview:

Empowering parents

  • Reaching adults is key to reaching kids: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," says Dr. William Roberts, president of the American College of Sports Medicine. "I can often see who will have trouble with obesity and who won't from looking at the parents; obese parents have obese kids, and active parents have active kids."
  • "[A]t the end of the day, it's a cultural shift, the way smoking is now unacceptable, not wearing seatbelts is now unacceptable," says James Hill, the director of the Colorado Nutrition Obesity Center. "It's an amazing challenge and it's going to be a lot for any one program to do alone."

Getting healthful foods in schools

  • "Getting junk food out of schools is 'something we've wanted to do for decades,'" says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who helped work on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which President Obama signed in December.
  • "I think we need universal school meals, and anything short of that is an enormous compromise," says Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University and the author of the book "Food Politics."

Improving access to healthful and affordable food

  • Wal-Mart has already agreed to stock its shelves with more healthful, more-clearly labeled products, Nestle says, and "[a]nything Wal-Mart does is going to have an enormous effect on other food companies, because they are going to have to follow suit."
  • "[T]he effort within the food industry is 'not as coordinated as we might like it to be,'" says Hill. "Getting people to make these healthy choices and sustain them over time is very much a challenge."

Improving physical activity

  • Let's Move! has teamed up with national sports organizations, including the National Football League and Major League Baseball, to develop public service announcements to motivate kids who may see professional athletes as role models.
  • "I don't know how you can get people to exercise who aren't willing to or don't want to," Roberts says. "In the end, it has to be an individual decision that you're going to make the changes you need."

Read more from the LA Times here:

"Let's Move! Can it make a dent in the childhood obesity problem?"

And more from LetsMove.gov.

Do you think "Let's Move!" is helping motivate the public against childhood obesity? Has it helped incite a cultural shift toward healthier living, even in some small way?

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