Health education gets a federal boost


The online courses allow students to have access to the curriculum 24-7. Students don’t need to be on a computer at school, and they can work on the lessons at their own pace. Hatch said Core Learning’s software is being revamped to work with interactive whiteboards as well.

‘Let’s Move’

Health education is getting a significant boost from First Lady Michelle Obama, who kicked off a major initiative on the topic in February. The program, called “Let’s Move,” has set an ambitious goal—to put America on track to solving the childhood obesity problem in a generation.

“Thank God it’s not going to be solely up to me,” Mrs. Obama said recently, stressing that the solution will require stepped-up effort from parents, schools, businesses, nonprofit groups, health professionals, and government agencies.

The campaign has four parts: helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in school vending machines and lunch lines, making healthy food more available and affordable for everyone, and encouraging children to exercise more.

Health-education advocates couldn’t be happier to have a popular first lady adopting childhood obesity as her cause. They’re also keenly aware of how difficult the problem will be to solve.

“You don’t just go from epidemic obesity to epidemic leanness,” said obesity expert Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

Still, Katz said, Mrs. Obama can provide the inspiration to help “shift the massive momentum of our society in the right direction.”

A decade ago, the government’s “Healthy People” program set a 2010 target that just 5 percent of children would be overweight or obese. The most updated government figures, released in January, weighed in at 32 percent for 2007-08. The childhood obesity rate has at least held steady in recent years, but at levels that still leave today’s children on track to die younger than their parents.

The first lady said she spent the past year figuring out how to talk about all of this “in a way that doesn’t make already overstressed, anxious parents feel even more guilty about a very hard thing.”

Ideas for addressing the problem include increasing federal money to make healthier school lunches for poor kids; improving the nutrition standards for school lunches; expanding the time available for school recess and physical education; prodding food makers to stop targeting children with ads for high-calorie treats on TV and in online video games; getting more restaurants to print nutrition information on menus; and providing more behavior counseling to overweight kids.

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