Make a commitment to be healthy
First Lady Michelle Obama called upon mayors across the country to join her push to reduce adult and childhood obesity rates during a speech she gave at the U.S. Conference of Mayors held last month.
"Right now, nearly one-third of children in America are overweight or obese -- one in three. And one third of all children today will eventually suffer from diabetes -- in the African American and Latino communities, it goes up to almost half," she said in her speech.
"If we continue on our current path, in 10 years, nearly 50 percent of all Americans will be obese -- not just overweight, but obese. So think about how much we'll be spending on health care to treat obesity-related conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes," she continued.
A formal rollout of Michelle Obama's initiative to raise awareness about childhood obesity is expected later this month, and we hope that in addition to our local leaders, other members of the community, including parents and teachers, will be inspired to heed her call.
Kudos to GE Hispanic Forum, Congressman Jim Himes (D-Conn., Norwalk Mayor Moccia and local community partners like Stepping Stones Museum and Norwalk Hospital for holding the region's first BEE Healthy "Fitness Buzz" at Jefferson Science Magnet Elementary School last Friday.
The program, part of a national health awareness from General Electric Company, is a corporate-wide initiative that provides fun, interactive activities for children while educating families about childhood obesity. This event was the fourth of 10 national events.
This is just the kind of collaboration Michelle Obama is talking about.
"Ultimately, it's going to take all of us -- businesses and non-profits; community centers and health centers; teachers and faith leaders; coaches and parents; and particularly all of you, our nation's mayors -- all working together to help families make commonsense changes so our kids can get, and stay, healthy," she said in her speech.
Obama understands that while budgets are strained, there are commonsense things that can be considered with breaking the bank.
For instance, the Center for Disease Control provides tips for parents, such as simply making changes to favorite family recipes to make them healthier. For new ideas about how to add more fruits and vegetables to your daily diet the CDC suggests checking out the recipe database from FruitsandVeggiesMatter.gov.
Reducing calorie-rich temptations of high-fat and high-sugar, or salty snacks, can also help children develop healthy eating habits according to the CDC. Instead only allow your children to eat them sometimes, so that they truly will be treats.
Examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less are: a medium-size apple; a medium-size banana; one cup blueberries; one cup grapes; 1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 two tablespoons of hummus.
Perhaps the easiest thing parents and caregivers can do that really doesn't cost a thing is to simply limit the time children watch television, play video games or surf the Web to no more than two hours per day. Encourage activities like brisk walking, playing tag, jumping rope, kicking a ball around or dancing.
While parents do their part, they can find comfort in knowing that the Connecticut Childhood Obesity Council, which was established in 2006, is still forging ahead with its mission to prevent obesity.
Among the achievements of the Connecticut Childhood Obesity Council over the last two years is was the passing of the "complete streets bill," which Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed into law last year.
It requires that beginning Oct. 1, 2010, at least 1 percent of state funds for highway or street projects go toward projects created for all users, including at least, bikeways and sidewalks with curb ruts or ramps; establishes an 11-member Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board who will monitor what's being done to improve the bicycling and walking environment in Connecticut.
The council also presented a menu labeling bill that would have required chain restaurants to disclose calorie counts, but the governor vetoed it. Hopefully the bill will be reintroduced.
If other communities are successfully winning the war against obesity, Fairfield County can, too. Michelle Obama highlighted some those communities, including:
Mayor Robert Cluck of Arlington, Texas -- who's also a doctor -- has been working to get kids more physically active, giving out pedometers at the end of the school year so they can track their steps over summer vacation.
Mayor Darwin Hindman of Columbia, Mo., is building a system of walkways and bikeways in his city that will connect businesses and shopping centers to schools, parks, and neighborhoods.
Mayor Elaine Walker of Bowling Green, Ky., has launched a Web site to encourage residents to exercise, helping them find parks and trail maps and information on upcoming bike rides, and walks and runs.
Mayor Rybak of Minneapolis brought in farmers markets to provide access to fresh produce in under-served areas.
Mayor Curtatone of Somerville, Mass. created a partnership with local restaurants as part of a city-wide strategy to fight obesity, promoting restaurants that have agreed to offer low-fat menu options and smaller portions. And he and his staff view every decision they make, every project they manage, as an opportunity to take action for the health of Somerville's citizens.
Mayor Mick Cornett challenged the people of Oklahoma City to lose a million pounds, and he created a Web site -- thiscityisgoingonadiet.com -- where people can learn how to lose weight and track their weight loss, and can share personal stories and tips with others. So far, 40,000 people have signed up -- and together, they've lost more than half a million pounds.
Now that's a community that is committed.