By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive DirectorOn April 9, I had the honor of participating in a White House meeting hosted by the Interagency Taskforce to Prevent Childhood Obesity. Nearly 200 people were invited, including advocates and federal leaders we've had the opportunity to work with over the years.
It was such an honor to be included in this group. I was thrilled to hear Michelle Obama speak about the policy and research behind ending childhood obesity; after following her initiative so closely, it was a privilege to hear first-hand about the important work the group is doing.
The summit felt very much like a working session, and it was valuable to hear the national leaders who are shaping policy around school and community-based solutions discuss many of the issues that we work on here at HSC. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he is a "big fan" of recess, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan talked about the paradoxical connection between obesity and hunger.
It was also very interesting to hear from the experts who are putting the obesity epidemic into numbers with analysis of the costs and risks it poses. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin talked about the medical risks of obesity, which are in some ways higher than the staggeringly high risks of smoking; Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, discussed the financial impact of obesity on health care at a level of detail and clarity I had not heard before.
Later, I participated in a small group session on school food and fitness that included advocates and school food service directors as well as government officials. I was glad to see such a diverse group at the table and appreciated the opportunity to add my two cents to the discussion.
The Interagency Taskforce to Prevent Childhood Obesity was created in February by an Executive Order from President Obama. The task force was charged with creating a plan within 90 days that will serve as a blueprint for the government’s obesity prevention program. The group received more than 2,500 suggestions, and this meeting was an opportunity for the task force members to have a dialogue with additional people working in the field on these issues.I was struck throughout the day by how much the task force is reaching out to "experts on the ground" -- advocates, food service directors, teachers, parents, community leaders -- in developing recommendations that will make a real difference for children's health. We all have a role in this effort. As the First Lady said in her remarks:
"...To achieve this goal, we are going
to need all of you. We’re going to need all of you -- your insight, your
experience, your guidance. And that’s why we are so excited about this
gathering here today, because you all know this issue better than just
about anyone. So many of you have dedicated your lives to fighting this
battle, and many of you are just thankful that there’s someone else
shining the spotlight on what you have known for a long, long time."
We at HSC are proud to be part of this nationwide effort.