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Editorial: Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign moves us in right direction

First lady Michelle Obamexercises with Chicago public school students during Let's Move Active Schools Tour Chicago February 28 2013. Studies

First lady Michelle Obama exercises with Chicago public school students during the Let's Move Active Schools Tour in Chicago February 28, 2013. Studies show that kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day to stay healthy, but theyÕre spending an average of 7 or more hours a day in front of a screen, and only 1 in 3 kids is active daily. | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times

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Updated: April 2, 2013 6:25AM



First lady Michelle Obama came to Chicago on Thursday to don a track suit and launch the latest phase of her “Let’s Move!” campaign, all in the name of combating one of the nation’s most intractable problems: dangerously overweight kids.

Three years into Obama’s efforts — along with local and national initiatives to get kids to exercise more and eat better — the obesity ship appears to be slowly turning.

Ballooning childhood obesity rates for Chicago’s youngest are receding, new City of Chicago data show. This mirrors recent national trends in childhood obesity.

Since 2003, the percentage of obese kindergartners in the Chicago Public Schools has dropped, from an estimated rate of 24 percent in 2003 to 20 percent in 2010. The 2003 data, from a study by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, also included parochial schoolchildren. Were only CPS students included, the 2003 rate likely would have been higher given CPS’ low-income demographic, CLOCC tell us.

The hope is that anti-obesity efforts are paying off. That sweeping constellation includes removing some junk from CPS cafeterias and vending machines while also adding recess for all, opening grocery stores in “food deserts,” and food companies and fast food joints beginning to see the wisdom (and marketing value) of “going healthy.”

Ferreting out true cause and effect is virtually impossible. But it’s hard to believe the call to arms on obesity and the response it has elicited — some cheered on by Obama’s efforts, others inspired by it — isn’t making a dent.

The work, of course, has only begun. One in four CPS students remains obese. Obama next wants to expand physical fitness for kids. Locally, the mayor has made combatting obesity a top priority and CLOCC has a new, 10-year plan for reducing obesity.

U.S. childhood obsesity rates have more than tripled in the last 30 years.

A moment, please, to celebrate a little progress.



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