SparkPeople is incredibly excited about this morning's launch of Michelle Obama's childhood obesity initiative. As the largest and most active weight loss and fitness website in America, SparkPeople is ready--and able--to fully support this initiative.
Announced last month and explained in detail this week, the plan--called Let's Move--would unite federal, state and local governments with businesses and the nonprofit sector to provide healthier food in schools, more ways for kids to get moving, and supply better access to affordable, nutritious food in all communities--and call for more accurate food labeling.
"Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled; nearly one third of children in America are now overweight or obese," the East Wing said in a statement. The First Lady cited the latest statistics: Around 32% of children and teens are obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; about one in five of children ages 6 to 19 are obese.
These statistics are beyond alarming.
But we believe that with so many people and organizations across America joining the fight, there is an incredible opportunity to help end childhood obesity in our lifetime. We’ve seen some promising trends in the SparkPeople community that give us much hope, too. I’ll tell you about some of those.
This is what we know.
- We know SparkPeople has developed a revolutionary program that helps people make a true healthy and lasting lifestyle change by taking small manageable steps over time, and by coming together to support one another in fun and motivating ways.
- We know that when parents join SparkPeople and change their lifestyles, this has a strong positive influence on their kids. (I often tear up while reading from the many letters, emails and Goodies we receive from successful members telling us about the positive impact SparkPeople has made on their families, especially their children.) We also see one of the most common reasons people cite for finally making the decision and committing to losing weight is so that they can be healthy role models for their kids, so that their kids won’t have to endure the same struggles they have.
- We know the power of online and real-world social networks, and studies have backed us up on that. It's effective, yet as easy as one SparkPeople member spreading the Spark by telling a friend--also a mother--about the site. As a result, that new member influences the health of her entire family, and she is making a direct and lasting impact on childhood obesity.
- From our past experience teaching a SparkPeople program to kids, we know that kids can be the family leaders and influence their parents to start eating healthier and moving more. Back in 2007, we asked for your help, and now we're asking again.
In December and January, SparkPeople surveyed members about their children's and families' healthy habits. The SparkPeople Healthy Kids Survey found some great "habits of healthy families," which show the power of how one person--a mom, dad, or a child--can influence and improve the health of their families:
When we asked our members who are parents how they get their kids to eat healthy foods, the top three responses (all around 60% of response or more) were:
- "I set a good example and eat healthy foods myself."
- "I try to make healthy foods taste good."
- "I talk to my kids about the benefit of healthy foods."
We also asked: As you’ve focused more on healthy eating, have you noticed a change for the better in your kids' diet? More than half (54%) said yes! Another 32% said maybe but not sure, and only 13% said no.
In terms of exercise, we saw an amazing correlation. Nine of 10 respondents exercise regularly, and there was a close correlation between the number of their kids who exercised or participated in physical activity at least half the week (13%) or most or everyday (more than 66%)--a total of almost 80% of all of their kids.
These results are powerful in that they show the true power of how one person’s actions touch and motivate others, whether it is their children, a friend or partner, or even a complete stranger.
I'm telling you all of this to get to the bottom line: If we all make ending childhood obesity a priority and commit to the issue, we KNOW that Americans can fix this problem that so threatens our future and the lives of our children. We know that our collective actions will continue to inspire positive, healthy action in others.
We know that no one group or person's efforts is enough. That's why we believe that having the White House and the First Lady involved can bring awareness and action to a new level. On an issue that touches us all, regardless of our political beliefs, it would be amazing to have SparkPeople members come together to participate in this effort!
The children are our future, and even if you're not a parent, you are still affected--and you can still make a difference. For now, keep doing what you're doing, taking small steps to reach your greater goal. Let this be a great motivation to continue reaching your goals one healthy choice and one workout at a time--and then spread the spark far and wide. Your daily actions and words impact more people than you realize!
Parents are an active subcommunity on SparkPeople, and if you're not sure where to start, join a SparkTeam. The very active Kids Health SparkTeam has almost 46,000 members, and the Moms and Dads at Home SparkTeam has more than twice that.
At SparkPeople.com, and our other sites, SparkTeens.com and BabyFit.com, we have built great tools, content, resources and community to help provide solutions to help Americans (and the world!) lose weight and improve their health and lives. (Check out our Healthy Kids and Families Center with great articles and content, or here for great healthy kid-friendly recipes!) We plan to fully support the First Lady’s childhood obesity initiative in ongoing ways to help end childhood obesity in our lifetimes!
What are some ways you can help in your community? What would you like to see SparkPeople do to support the cause? Have you had childhood obesity touch your life?
Photo of First Lady Michelle Obama courtesy of the White House.