TOPICS > Health

First Lady Kicks Off Campaign Against Childhood Obesity

February 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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Michelle Obama launched a new program Tuesday aimed at eliminating childhood obesity within one generation. The "Let's Move" initiative, which seeks to reshape childhood eating and exercise habits, marks her first major public policy effort as first lady.

JIM LEHRER: First Lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign today against a virtual epidemic of obesity among American children.

“NewsHour” health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser begins our coverage.

GIRL: Mrs. Michelle Obama.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: At a White House ceremony, Mrs. Obama said the numbers tell the story.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in this country have tripled.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: The first lady outlined a national campaign called Let’s Move, surrounded by local peewee football champions.

MICHELLE OBAMA: But these guys are the national football champions, right?

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Today, nearly one-third of American children are overweight or obese. Later in life, many will suffer from chronic obesity-related health problems, like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.

And a recent study found obesity-related illnesses cost the U.S. health care system $147 billion a year.

MICHELLE OBAMA: And, today, it’s time for a moment of truth for our nation. It’s time for a wakeup call for all of us.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Part of the wakeup call is a task force to be headed by the first lady.

MICHELLE OBAMA: The task force is going to be comprised of representatives from key agencies. Many of them are here today. And over the next 90 days — yes, more work for you – these folks will review every program and policy relating to child nutrition and physical activity. They’re going to develop an action plan to marshal these resources to meet our goal.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Initiatives will include programs to make food labels easier to read and more user-friendly for parents and spend $10 billion to update school nutrition standards.

The campaign also aims to help kids be more physically active. Another $400 million a year will go to bringing healthier food options to communities without supermarkets.