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Policy Corner: ACSM is Positioned to Work Closely with First Lady on Combating Childhood Obesity
Last week, first lady Michelle Obama unveiled a national campaign to combat childhood obesity, a condition that affects one in three American children. The "Let's Move" initiative will encourage involvement from every sector – the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, as well as parents and youth – to help support and amplify the work of the Federal Government in improving the health of children.

During the announcement, President Obama joined his wife and Cabinet members to sign a Memorandum on Childhood Obesity to establish a task force headed by the First Lady. The task force will encourage children to exercise more and adopt healthier eating habits. The group is also charged with working across executive departments and agencies to develop a coordinated Federal response while also identifying nongovernmental actions that can be taken to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. The functions of the Task Force are advisory only and shall include, but are not limited to, making recommendations to meet the following objectives:

(a) ensuring access to healthy, affordable food;
(b) increasing physical activity in schools and communities;
(c) providing healthier food in schools; and
(d) empowering parents with information and tools to make good choices for themselves and their families.

ACSM was invited to the initiative launch but winter blizzards in the U.S. mid-Atlantic last week altered both travel plans and the campaign announcement itself. ACSM has early on been a strategic partner and adviser in establishing White House priorities in the area of physical activity and healthy lifestyles, and is prepared to work closely with the First Lady to address the rise and reversal of childhood obesity. This partnership includes:

  • Comprehensively briefing and engaging the White House on the importance of physical activity to national strategies for health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Placing a special emphasis with the White House on the National Physical Activity Plan, scheduled to be released on May 3, 2010.
  • Expanding the number of White House key executives committed to and involved with physical activity, including the White Office of Domestic Priorities (check name); the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sports; and, of course, the First Lady's Office.
  • Working directly and closely with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., who will be playing a key role in the First Lady’s initiative and who now herself has established health and fitness as a fundamental priority for her service as Surgeon General. The Surgeon General will be playing a major role with the launch of and on-going efforts with the National Physical Activity Plan. An additional planning meeting directly with the Surgeon General will occur next month focused on Exercise Is Medicine.
In these ways and many more – including working in bipartisan fashion with all Members of Congress and relevant federal agencies – ACSM is playing a key role in influencing, supporting, and strategically collaborating with governmental leaders to build a commitment to the importance of physical activity and healthy lifestyles to the U.S. present and its future. This will translate into many opportunities for involvement by the membership of ACSM and its stakeholders and partners in the weeks and months ahead, and ACSM appreciates the dedication by all.


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