Seventy: That's the number of recommendations in the report released today by the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. (Read about the history of the task force and its connection to First Lady Michelle Obama's obesity awareness campaign, Let's Move.) Melody Barnes, Chair of the Task Force and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, noted that many of these suggestions can be implemented right away. They are the result of a collaboration among 12 federal agencies, as well as more than 2,500 public comments with "specific and creative" ideas.
Barnes announced, "Our recommendations focus on the four priority areas set forth in the Memorandum [creating the task force], which also form the pillars of the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign: (1) empowering parents and caregivers; (2) providing healthy food in schools; (3) improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and (4) increasing physical activity." Notably, today's report also includes a fifth set of recommendations focusing on pregnancy and infancy, since some risks of obesity can be traced all the way back to those first days and weeks of a child's life.
The aim here is lofty, Barnes noted in the report. "Our goal is to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation. Achieving that goal will mean returning to the expected levels in the population, before this epidemic began. That means returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5% by 2030."
The report also includes a discussion of ways to measure success for each recommendation. For example, in the chapter on physical activity, one recommendation is: "'Active transport' should be encouraged between homes, schools, and community destinations for after-school activities, including to and from parks, libraries, transit, bus stops, and recreation centers." Implementation will be deemed successful if we can "increase by 50% by 2015 the percentage of children ages 5-18 taking safe walking and biking trips to and from school. An increase of 50% would mean that 19.5% of school trips would be by biking or walking."
Most recommendations contain words like "should" or "could." They are not binding on federal or state agencies or on the private sector, although many mention and support specific pieces of legislation. So it's possible that this report could be tossed away like so many fast-food wrappers. But I hope that it isn't. We have to have a plan to make changes, and this plan, if implemented, could change our kids' health forever.
To read the full report, visit LetsMove.gov.