NAACP and First Lady Michelle Obama Fight Childhood Obesity
Posted on July 22, 2010 by Kevin Blythe, NAACP Health Policy Intern, Meharry Medical College
On Monday July 12, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed NAACP members at the 101st NAACP National Convention, alarming us about the epidemic of childhood obesity. In our community, 35.9% of African American youth, aged 2-19, are overweight or obese which is significantly greater than the rate for all races of that age range. The statistics are more discouraging for African American girls, of whom, 29.2% are obese; this is the highest prevalence for any age group by gender, race, or ethnicity. Without intervention, this high prevalence will eventually mean greater incidences of diabetes, heart disease, and other debilitating chronic diseases. According to Olshansky et al in the New England Journal of Medicine, "Unless the epidemic is reversed, experts warn that excess weight could reduce average life expectancy by 5 years or more over the next several decades."
As the First Lady stated, we must take responsibility to adopt healthy living habits, and work to advance policies which will create communities that promote more healthy lifestyles. Mrs. Obama asserted about the rise in childhood obesity, "if we don't do something to reverse this trend right now, our kids won't be in any shape to continue the work begun by the founders of this great organization [the NAACP]. They won't be in any condition to confront all those challenges that we know still remain." In order to reverse the epidemic, she presented the four components of the Let's Move childhood obesity initiative: educating and empowering parents to make health decisions for their families, providing nutritional food options in schools, eliminating food deserts and providing access to affordable nutritious food options in communities, and increasing the daily level of physical activity.