Neglecting Kids with Severe Obesity?

Are mainstream childhood obesity programs — like First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign — essentially ignoring kids with severe obesity? The intersection of two conflicting sets of headlines this week begs that question. The first lady was making headlines about progress against childhood obesity. In sharp contrast, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a scientific statement to warn that severe childhood obesity is growing. The statement came with an endorsement from the Obesity Society.

At a recent Let’s Move! school event in Washington, DC, Obama said:

Make no mistake about it, we are changing the conversation in this country. We are creating a cultural shift in how we live and eat and our efforts are beginning to have a real impact on our children’s lives.

The pictures with these headlines prompted one astute observer to comment that the first lady seldom has kids with obesity in photo ops with her. That rings true. But in fairness, Obama has recently won praise from advocates for healthy attitudes about weight by saying things like:

I have two young daughters. We never talk about weight. I make it a point. I don’t want our children to be weight-obsessed. I want them to be focused on: What do I have to do, in this body — because everybody is different, every person’s body is different — what do I have to do to be the healthiest that I can be.

Even so, we still have an unresolved problem that the AHA report describes in objective detail. Severe childhood obesity is still growing. We have too few options for treating it. And the options we do have are not widely available to the kids who need them.

Will we content ourselves with glossy PR about progress to date? Or will we get serious about helping the children and their families who are most severely affected by obesity?

Click here to read more about Let’s Move! in the Washington Post, click here to read about the AHA report, and click here to read the report itself.

Let’s Move! in Indian Country, photograph © National Congress of American Indians / flickr

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