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Harkin: Task Force Report to Address Childhood Obesity Epidemic is a Roadmap to a Healthier America

“Simple strategies, from menu labeling to more physical activity for our kids, add up to real improvements in our public policy and public health.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, praised the action plan released by the Task Force on Childhood Obesity this morning.  On February 9th, the President created the interagency Task Force and directed it to produce a plan within 90 days.  The plan, titled “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation,” aims to bring the childhood obesity rate down from 17 percent today to 5 percent, where it was before it began to rise in the late 1970s, by 2030.  One out of every three American children is now overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  Over the past two decades, Harkin has championed numerous measures to improve child nutrition and reduce obesity rates.

“We are in danger of raising the first generation of Americans who will live sicker and die sooner than their parents,” Senator Harkin said.  “I applaud the First Lady and President Obama for taking up this fight, and the task force for laying out a clear plan to solve this public health crisis. 

“I especially appreciate their recognition that this is a problem government cannot solve on its own.  Instead, this plan calls on the private sector to partner with families, communities and schools to empower people to make informed decisions about their health.  Simple, reasonable strategies, from menu labeling to more physical activity for our kids, add up to real improvements in our public policy and public health.  And they start in the community -- where investments in prevention can have the most value.

“As we work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the HELP Committee, this plan will be a helpful guide.  Focusing on academic achievement while not losing sight of the need for healthy food and physical activity can be a challenge, but part of the future of education is integrating these initiatives. 

“The plan will also serve as a resource as we move forward with the pending reauthorization of the federal child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and the WIC Program.  Upgrading the nutritional value of the food we feed out kids will improve their development, both mentally and physically, and help stop the rising tide of obesity and its related ailments.    

“This plan also does a good job of addressing several isolated, worrisome problems that contribute to childhood obesity.  Focusing on increasing physical activities for students with disabilities and others at "high risk for inactivity" will help direct attention to pockets of the population that have been overlooked.

“I want to thank the Administration for its leadership on this issue, which has been ignored for far too long.  I look forward to working toward the goal laid out in this plan: solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.”

Click here for a link to the full report.

Click here for a list of Senator Harkin’s initiatives to fight childhood obesity.