Today, U.S. Senator Mark Udall announced that he has sent a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama encouraging her to work with the Department of Defense as she begins her "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity. In his letter, Senator Udall noted that nearly a third of 17-to-24-year-olds are unfit for military service due to their weight or lack of fitness, severely limiting the number of young adults qualified to serve in the armed forces.
Senator Udall's letter is in reaction to a recent report by the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, which laid out a plan for fighting childhood obesity. The report's recommendations are the action plan for First Lady Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Senator Udall said he thought the report should have recommended more steps to address military fitness.
"Obesity rates have the unsettling potential to compromise our nation's ability to defend itself," Senator Udall wrote, adding that "Let's Move" could greatly assist the Armed Forces in their efforts to increase the health of the United States' military recruits.
Senator Udall praised the First Lady's efforts to fight childhood obesity and said Defense Secretary Robert Gates also has developed innovative initiatives aimed at increasing education, nutrition, and health-conscious habits among its recruits and active duty service men and women. By combining the efforts, the United States could ensure more young adults are healthy and fit, and help overcome the problem the military has faced in finding qualified recruits, wrote Senator Udall, who also is an advocate for fighting obesity and promoting fitness.
"The goals of the White House Task Force and the Department of Defense in this arena are closely aligned, and I am confident that increased co-ordination and communication between the White House Task Force and the Pentagon with regard to fighting this battle will strengthen the already promising efforts being made by both parties," Senator Udall wrote.
The following is the text of Senator Udall's letter to the First Lady:
Dear Mrs. Obama:
Thank you for leading the important fight against our country's growing child obesity epidemic. I share your concern that the ever increasing prevalence of obesity in the United States has created a national health crisis that not only threatens our country's physical and economic well-being, but also our national security. My purpose for writing this letter is to both offer my earnest support for your Let's Move Campaign and to encourage the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity to work closely with the Department of Defense as it continues to develop and shortly begin implementing its interagency action plan for bringing down the rate of childhood obesity.
I believe your Let's Move Campaign has the potential to greatly improve the long-term health of our nation's population, and I was encouraged by the aggressive and promising recommendations put forth last week by the Task Force. In fact, I recently introduced legislation - the Healthy Kids from Day One Act (S. 3289) - whose provisions are congruous with the Task Force's proposal for promoting healthy behaviors in child care settings. By setting clear goals, making specific recommendations, and emphasizing interagency cooperation, the report provides a promising framework for solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was particularly glad to see reference made in the report to the threat of obesity on our country's military readiness. With nearly a third of 17 to 24-year olds currently unfit for military service because of their weight or lack of fitness - and that number rising each year - obesity rates have the unsettling potential to compromise our nation's ability to defend itself.
Our Armed Forces continue to be cognizant of the implications that this epidemic has not only for their future recruiting potential, but also on the fitness level of current service members. Additionally, Secretary Gates has worked to raise awareness of the exponentially rising costs that health care has on our Defense budget, not only due to chronic disease connected with obesity, but also the costly medical issues resulting from the degenerative effects on bone and dental health increasingly associated with obesity and poor diet. As such, military officials have dedicated significant resources toward developing innovative initiatives aimed at increasing education, nutrition, and health-conscious habits among its recruits and active duty service men and women.
The goals of the White House Task Force and the Department of Defense in this arena are closely aligned, and I am confident that increased coordination and communication between the White House Task Force and the Pentagon with regard to fighting this battle will strengthen the already promising efforts being made by both parties. In particular, I encourage you to reach out to U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and its new subordinate organization for Initial Military Training to understand the steps they are taking to address future recruiting challenges and the overall health of the force.
Again, I offer my support and assistance if I or my staff can be helpful in your efforts, and I look forward to working with you in the coming months and years on this important initiative.