September marks the start of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a time for us to encourage America's children to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
All kids deserve to experience the positive health benefits of daily physical activity and healthy eating, and have those opportunities available to them.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed programs and resources to help children and parents, and they're available in agencies including the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health's We Can!! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition)® program.
In addition, through public-private partnerships, safe places to play and nutritious food options are being made available in neighborhoods and schools across America. Exciting new programs include the Partnership for a Healthier America and Olympic Team USA's commitment to provide 1.7 million kids the opportunity to participate in free and low cost physical activity programs offered by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USOC National Governing Bodies for sport, and others over the next year. And, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a new farm to school grant programdesigned to educate children about food sources, and increase the availability of locally sourced foods in schools.
Over the past 30 years, the childhood obesity rate in America has almost tripled. According to the CDC, in 2010, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years were already obese. Children and teenagers who are obese are more likely to become obese adults. Overweight and obese youth are at greater risk of developing serious adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
That is why HHS, with the President's Council, supports First Lady Michelle Obama's goal to end childhood obesity within a generation through her Let's Move! initiative. Everyone has a role to play -- parents and caregivers, school teachers and administrators, community leaders, local elected officials, after school programmers, and health care providers.
According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents aged 6--17 years should spend 60 minutes or more being physical active each day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released by HHS and USDA, provide nutritional guidance for Americans to promote good health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity. The guidelines recommend balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.
Let's work together to make the healthy choice, the easy choice! In coming weeks and months, HHS and the President's Council will announce exciting initiatives that will go a long way towards ensuring that our nation's children grow up to be healthy, fit and strong.