Today, First Lady Michelle Obama announced her "Let's Move!" initiative to fight childhood obesity, which will be her signature issue while in the White House and beyond. "Let's Move!" is about engaging, motivating, and providing simple tools to help kids eat better, become more active, and lead healthier lives. Just as importantly, the program strives to support working parents so they can encourage more physical family activities; aims to ensure that healthy food options are available in schools; and garners resources for community parks and playgrounds where Americans of all ages can enjoy physical fitness in a safe environment.
This commitment isn't surprising if you've been following the First Lady's activities over the past year. She planted the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt's 1943 'Victory Garden', and has consistently promoted healthy eating for herself, her family, and the country as a whole. As a Mom who remembers not too long ago the challenges of working full-time and trying to provide healthy food options for her children, Mrs. Obama's message resonates powerfully with the American people.
Given the current climate of hostile, partisan discourse, we're sure some will be quick to say "what's different about this initiative?" or "isn't this just another First Lady promoting a 'cause'?"
But ask yourself this: can you name another person of our First Lady's intelligence, genuine spirit, and dedication who has taken up the torch of combating childhood obesity? We can't think of anyone who is held in such high regard by so many different constituencies, who is capable of inspiring everyone from the shy 3rd grader struggling with a weight problem, to a mom who is barely keeping it together juggling home and work responsibilities, to the leading corporate executive who wants to help but doesn't know how.
Michelle Obama resonates with the authenticity needed for real change to occur.
She not only had the insight to realize the true need for a coordinated and cross-cutting attack against this epidemic, but also the wisdom to prioritize this signature initiative in a way that ensures it won't get bogged down under the auspices of one federal agency or be delegated to some ceremonial campaign in the private sector.
Instead, the First Lady is rallying the best resources from inside AND outside of government. A Task Force comprising experts from many of the government agencies working on children's issues will meet regularly to see what they can do to help fight the obesity epidemic. Outside of government, the First Lady's team is simultaneously building partnerships within the medical community, the foundation and philanthropic community, and non-profit organizations of all flavors. There is finally recognition that everyone must play a role in battling childhood obesity, from state and local government officials, industry leaders and school administrators, to small businesses, churches and the major sports leagues.
In our opinion the most exciting effort on this front is the creation of a new foundation to be the rallying point for childhood obesity efforts across the country, the "Partnership for a Healthier America." Its focus on brining together all the great work already being done across the country and pushing this massive fleet of ships all in the same direction through the promotion of public-private partnerships could end up being one of the First Lady's most powerful and lasting legacies.
This is an "all hands on deck" moment, requiring partnerships between government agencies and the private sector to inspire true long-lasting social change. As the First Lady has recognized, this collaborative effort can make the difference in an age when one in three kids in this country is overweight or obese - one in three. Rather than just adding another Band-Aid to the wound, compounding the problem and placing the burden of fixing it onto future generations, this initiative can finally move us toward a real solution to the obesity epidemic.
Through all of us doing our part, whatever that may be, we can prove the researchers wrong who warn that this could be the first generation of children in 200 years to live a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Mrs. Obama's involvement in this issue is a game-changer and we hope her leadership will inspire others, as it has the two of us, to pledge to do whatever we can to help.
So enough talking, "Let's Move!"
Dr. David Washington is a Senior Fellow at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a former aide to President Obama, and a Health Fellow who worked on childrens' health matters for Senator Ted Kennedy. Gabriella Reese is an athlete, author, mother and life-long advocate for healthy living and eating. Follow her at TheHoneyLine.com.
For more information on Let's Move! go to www.letsmove.gov