Mayors Urged to Help Fight Childhood Obesity

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Obama administration is calling on
mayors to help in the fight against childhood obesity because the
effort won't work if communities don't engage in it, Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a conference
Friday.

Sebelius touted first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move"
campaign against childhood obesity at the annual U.S. Conference of
Mayors. Sebelius encouraged about 400 mayors and members of their
staffs to have their cities join a new part of the campaign, dubbed
"Let's Move Cities and Towns."

"I know well how critical it is that you are mobilized and
energized, because you are the leadership teams that can actually
make things happen," she said. "We now have, I think, a real
opportunity with the spotlight of the first lady on this problem."

Obama addressed the conference by video, saying mayors "know
how to develop effective solutions" and can "spur action at the
grassroots unlike anyone else."

Sebelius said local leaders can help by building parks,
supporting farmers markets and bringing healthier foods into
schools.

Obama's program, launched in February 2009, is aimed at solving
the childhood obesity problem in a generation, so children born
today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight. It has four
components: helping parents make better food choices, serving
healthier food in school vending machines and lunch lines, making
healthy food more available and affordable, and encouraging
children to exercise more.

Sebelius said one in three American children are overweight or
obese. She said that number had quadrupled during the past 20
years.

At the conference, Sebelius was joined by Olympic gymnast
Dominique Dawes, who said keeping children active and on a healthy
diet is critical to fighting obesity.

"This is near and dear to my heart," said Dawes, a member of
the "Magnificent Seven" in 1996, the first U.S. women's team to
win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. "Physical fitness and
proper nutrition have really been a part of the core of my
childhood."

Sebelius praised citywide weight-loss efforts led by Oklahoma
City Mayor Mick Cornett. As of Friday afternoon, the mayor's
campaign, thiscityisgoingonadiet.com, included 42,113 participants
who had lost a cumulative 576,437 pounds, an average of about 13.7
pounds per person.

"Where Oklahoma City has succeeded is on the awareness side,"
said Cornett, who signed the pledge for his city to join the
"Let's Move Cities and Towns" effort. "What we've seen here is a
community that's finally talking about obesity. It was like the
taboo subject in our town. No one wanted to talk about it. We just
pretended that if we ignored it, it might go away on its own. But
we knew it was an issue."


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