Childhood Obesity Task Force outlines areas for action

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Childhood obesity Nutrition Obesity

Cutting kids’ consumption of added sugars and decreasing the portion of unhealthy foods advertised to children are among measures recommended in the long-awaited report from the President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

The Task Force on Childhood Obesity was set up by President Obama in February and appointed Michelle Obama to lead the program. She launched the Let’s Move campaign with the goal of ending childhood obesity within a generation.

In a press conference presenting the taskforce’s conclusions, Mrs. Obama said the initiative would start by using the currently available federal tools, but that the key is that “for the first time we are setting really clear goals…not just talking about making a difference but actually doing it.”

Many of those goals are familiar, such as increasing access to healthy foods, eliminated food deserts, and promoting physical activity. However, Obama was clear that initiatives to tackle obesity are not to be handed down from government.

She said: “No one gets off the hook on this one, from governments to schools, to non-profits… all the way down to families around the dinner table.”

Among about 70 recommendations, the report said there should be an effort to decrease the amount of added sugar that children get “from a whole range of products,”​ and that the portion of healthy food and beverage ads targeted at children should be increased, so that a third of foods advertised to children are for healthy foods within three years.

The report said that the program could claim success if the United States were to return to rates of childhood obesity of five percent by 2030, as opposed to the nearly 20 percent of children who are currently obese.

“Children today consume a substantial amount of added sugars through a whole range of products. Using existing data sources, CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics can determine how much added sugar children are currently consuming. Targets for reducing added sugar will then need to be established that track the overall goal of driving obesity rates down to 5% by 2030,”​ the report said.

Childhood obesity is at record levels, with 32 percent of US children and adolescents overweight or obese, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This falls far short of an earlier government pledge to shrink the number of overweight children to five percent by 2010.

Many of the report’s recommendations have already been discussed with industry over the past three months as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign has taken shape, including the suggestion that federal agencies should work with industry to create a standard front-of-pack nutrition label – an initiative that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already considering.

The full report is available online here​.

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