Michelle Obama Might Have It Wrong on Childhood Obesity

Michelle Obama has been pretty amazing in her crusade against childhood obesity.  She has wisely focused on the children, a group that it’s hard to argue doesn’t need our help.  Maybe adults can make poor choices that ultimately affect their health for the worse, but how can children be responsible for their health?

The Let’s Move campaign is a great marketing strategy that has worked quite well, sparking a plethora of ideas to combat childhood obesity, from overhauling school lunch programs, to providing better green spaces for children to play in, to packaging carrots in a way to make them more appealing to kids, to banning sugary drinks from schools.  I heartily applaud the changes she’s helped to implement.

But now a study says there might be a cheaper way.  Go after the parents instead.

The study looked at two groups over a five month period.  One was parent-only in focus, teaching good nutrition and exercise guidelines, while a second group was parents and children combined, using the same information as the parents-only group.  The impact on the kids was the same, both groups improved their health at about the same rate.  BUT, the parent-only group was less expensive to run.

So should we swing our focus back to adults?  It’s easy to blame an overweight person for being in their situation.  They are the ones that keep eating and sitting in front of the TV.  But is that fair?  What if they learned from their parents who didn’t know any better? Or if they live in an area with limited access to green spaces?  What if they simply can’t afford fruits and veggies and are stuck on a macaroni and cheese diet?

If the adult-only groups are cheaper to run than we can reach more people with the same amount of dollars. Should we consider it?

I say let’s add that on to what we’re already doing.  Keep working on the kids for a bottom-up approach and focus on the adults, too, for a trickle-down strategy.  There are so many different family dynamics at play; we should be using our full arsenal to get through to as many people as possible.

What do you think?  Should we work both approaches or should we jettison the adults and keep focusing on the kids?  What has your community done to help kids and adults lead healthier lives?

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