First Lady shifts the conversation on obesity,
broadcasts the Prevention Institute message from
the White House steps.
Washington, DC, February 9, 2010—With the words, "It's not about inches and pounds…It's what we all can do," First Lady Michelle Obama today dramatically re-framed how we understand, and how we will address, the 'obesity' epidemic in the United States. By shifting the lens from individual responsibility, Mrs. Obama deftly communicated the work at the heart of Prevention Institute-improving health through policies and environments that build healthy communities.
It might be news to America, and even to the media, where conversations center around portion control, dieting and bad parenting, but it's not news to Mrs. Obama—or to Prevention Institute. From the earliest policies limiting smoking in public places, to promoting work to ban sodas in schools, Prevention Institute has led efforts nationwide to give people and communities the support they need to be healthy.
"Mrs. Obama has pinpointed where the responsibility lies—with all of us, from governments to schools," says Prevention Institute Executive Director Larry Cohen. "How do you blame a parent for their child's eating habits when they can't afford fruits and vegetables, or even find them in their neighborhood? If there is no structural support for healthy eating and physical activity, nothing will change."
Here's how Prevention Institute is moving the conversation forward:
- Mayor Chip Johnson from Hernando, Mississippi highlighted cross-sector approaches to addressing healthy eating and physical activity, including what he called 'shared facilities.' Prevention Institute's nationally-recognized initiative, www.jointuse.org, asks groups to share indoor and outdoor spaces like gyms and playgrounds-so neighbors can shoot hoops on a school playground, or the local YMCA allows elementary school students to hold PE classes in their gym.
- Mrs. Obama underscored how fears about safety can limit children's ability to be physically active, or even walk to school. Prevention Institute is coordinating a national, multi-city initiative that includes violence reduction as a method of promoting healthy eating and active living. Potential strategies include healthy corner store programs, job development and safe routes to schools.
- Prevention Institute is bolstering efforts nationwide to build momentum for prevention by making perhaps the most important argument of all-these kinds of efforts save money in the long run. Prevention Institute's study, Prevention for a Healthier America, shows that for every $1 invested in community-based prevention efforts exactly like the kind Mrs. Obama mentioned, the return amounts to $5.60 within five years—a 5-to-1 return on investment.