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National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: A statement by Shellie Y. Pfohl, M.S., Executive Director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., Acting Surgeon General

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Contact: OASH Press Office
(202) 205-0143

Each September, during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we renew our efforts to reverse the continuing crisis of obesity among our nation’s youth. Every child, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic background, or ability, should have equal access to healthy food options and physical activity opportunities.

The epidemic of childhood obesity threatens the future of our young people by increasing their chances of developing high blood pressure and chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, if our youth develop healthy habits at an early age, they are more likely to continue these habits for a lifetime.

America has made modest progress in recent years, but we still have a long way to go.  It will take combined effort of all levels of government, parents and caregivers, child care, schools, the private sector, health care professionals, and faith- and community-based organizations to help children attain a healthy weight. The good news is that we already have the necessary programs, tools and resources to support this work, with active players like the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) and the Office of the Surgeon General.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the PCFSN work closely with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.  The PCFSN is the lead federal office for Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS), a sub-initiative of Let’s Move! that focuses on creating active school environments.  PCFSN believes that active kids do better -- they perform better academically, have better attendance, and have improved behavior. Thus, LMAS aims to ensure all students achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day where they live, learn and play, based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report.

In other efforts, through the National Prevention Council (NPC), the Office of the Surgeon General has partnered with 20 other federal agencies to implement the National Prevention Strategy.  The strategy envisions a prevention-oriented society, where all sectors contribute to the health of individuals and communities so that more Americans are healthy at every stage of life. Two key priorities of the strategy are promoting active living and healthy eating. In conjunction with non-federal partners, agencies in the NPC have committed to increasing access to healthy, affordable food within their programs and fostering the development of active communities.  The National Prevention Council 2014 Annual Status Report showcases examples of how partners across the country are bringing the strategy to life.

To continue progress towards the goal of reducing childhood obesity, HHS has renewed energy in other efforts as well.  HHS is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans based on the latest research and science. The guidelines encourage Americans to eat a healthy diet and achieve and maintain a healthy weight to promote health and prevent disease. Concurrently, HHS is working to increase health care access by continuing to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA increases access to obesity screening and counseling for children ages 6 and older at no additional charge to the enrollee and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition such as diabetes.

By utilizing these resources and working as a team, we can ensure that our nation’s youth grow up to be healthy and strong. Please visit www.fitness.gov to learn more about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and to find tips on healthy eating and ways you can increase your child’s physical activity. And visit www.surgeongeneral.gov to learn more about the work of the National Prevention Council.

We envision a time when we can look back on childhood obesity as a distant memory. Let’s make healthy lifestyles the norm for our youth and remember that active kids do better.