Obamas take on problem of obese children

Tue Feb 9, 2010 11:20am EST
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Alarmed that nearly a third of U.S. children are obese or overweight -- and likely to stay that way all their lives -- President Barack Obama launched an initiative on Tuesday to roll back the numbers and put his wife in charge of promoting it.

Obama signed an executive order setting up a task force to include Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other cabinet officials.

"I have set a goal to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight," Obama said in signing the order on Tuesday at the White House.

He asked first lady Michelle Obama to head up a national public awareness effort.

"She will encourage involvement by actors from every sector -- the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, as well as parents and youth -- to help support and amplify the work of the federal government in improving the health of our children," Obama said.

"Obesity has been recognized as a problem for decades, but efforts to address this crisis to date have been insufficient."

He assigned his cabinet officers to meet within three months and come up with "a comprehensive interagency plan."

Reports on the U.S. obesity epidemic have recommended such an approach.

The independent Institute of Medicine has found in several studies that Americans will have to exercise more, eat less fatty and sugary food and eat more fruits and vegetables to overcome obesity and the heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other health problems it brings.   Continued...

<p>President Obama after signing a memorandum on the establishment of a childhood obesity task force in the Oval Office, February 9, 2010. From L-R are: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. REUTERS/Larry Downing</p>