03/05/2012 01:34 pm ET Updated May 05, 2012

Does Apple Mean "Apple" More Than Apples Do?

The name Apple stands for the most admired company on Earth and the most iconic example of American innovation. With perhaps some of the most beloved technology products, the name also represents the most successful convergence between technology and the human experience.

Indeed, toddlers may learn how to use some Apple products before they learn how to use a fork and build with blocks. As a consequence, something else extraordinary might be happening: Apple's trademark name may be overtaking its original word's meaning. Ask a kid if she wants an apple for her birthday and she's probably thinking iPad, not Granny Smith.

But there's a deeper, less light-hearted consequence of this phenomenon. The transformation of the meaning of "apple" is emblematic of a serious health crisis in our nation.

Apple products are coveted by no group more than kids -- the same kids who aren't getting enough apples and other foods that can help keep them fit and healthy. About 1 in 5 American children are obese today; that's up from less than 1 in 15 just thirty years ago.

And being obese as a kid usually means being obese later in life; there is about a 70 percent chance that an overweight adolescent will be overweight or obese as an adult. The span of the obesity crisis across American demographics explains why it's costing our nation $147 billion annually just in medical costs, according to a report in Health Affairs.

There are many causes of the obesity epidemic, including more sedentary lifestyles and an over-abundance and an over-marketing of junk foods and junk drinks.

But most of all it's the kids who can't afford an Apple iPad who don't have access to the apples that keep the doctor away either. Low-income families are more likely to rely on nutritionally empty foods in part because they're cheaper. And many low-income families live in places where there's limited access to full-service grocery stores.

Simply put, in neighborhoods where it's hard to find an Apple Store, it may be even harder to find a store with apples.

The solution to the obesity crisis will require us to be just as innovative and creative when it comes to our surroundings as Apple has been with technology. The California Endowment is supporting a new Health Happens Here campaign to replace liquor stores with famers markets, abandoned lots with safe playgrounds and junk drink machines with working water fountains. 

In concert with efforts across the country, especially First Lady Michelle Obama's bold Let's Move campaign, we're changing the way we think about how our surroundings affect our health and well-being.

If we're successful, kids will have Apples and apples side by side on their desks and be on a path toward defining the future on happier and healthier terms.