During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month every September, we look to intensify our efforts to combat obesity among America's youth. Childhood obesity puts too many of our children at greater risk for developing serious health problems later in life, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It's a national epidemic that also undermines our kids' ability to succeed in the classroom, which undercuts our country's future.
We are encouraged by recent reports that we are making some progress to reverse this epidemic. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shows that obesity among low-income preschoolers has declined slightly in 19 states and territories. In addition, a new report on schools shows improvements to classroom approaches on nutrition and physical activity.
This modest success drives us to working even harder to sustain and improve this progress for all children.
The Department of Health and Human Services works closely with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative, whose goal is to end childhood obesity within a generation by encouraging physical activity and making healthy choices easier for families. In just one year, more than 300 communities have joined the Let's Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative. We all play a role in making this happen, including parents and caregivers, government officials, educators, health care professionals, faith-based and community leaders and private sector companies.
We also know that affordable quality health coverage will make better health care more accessible to millions of Americans who are now uninsured. Because of the Affordable Care Act, new insurance options are in sight. Beginning October 1, uninsured families will be able to compare and sign up for affordable plans, with coverage starting as early as January 1, 2014.
Under the health care law, most plans must provide obesity screening and counseling for children at no out-of-pocket charge. Insurance companies also can no longer deny insurance to a child because of a pre-existing condition, like diabetes.
In order to reduce childhood obesity nationwide, we must use every resource available to encourage America's youth to adopt healthy habits that can last a lifetime. HHS provides programs and resources for all Americans to maintain or improve their health, including:
- The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+), a six-week program created by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to encourage regular physical activity and good nutrition for all Americans, ages 6 and older.
- The I Can Do It, You Can Do It! mentoring program offered by the President's Council, which addresses the critical need for more opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to be physically active. Obesity rates for children with disabilities are about 38 percent higher than for children without disabilities. Every young person, regardless of ability, deserves the chance to experience the positive health benefits of daily physical activity and healthy eating.
- The We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition) program offered by the National Institutes of Health. We Can! is a national education program designed to give parents, caregivers, and communities a way to help children and youth maintain a healthy weight.
- CDC information and resources related to childhood overweight and obesity available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
To learn more about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and for tips on how to help your child lead a healthy lifestyle, visit http://www.fitness.gov.
Together, we can combat childhood obesity and ensure that our kids grow up to be healthy, fit and strong.