By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Anaylst
May 11, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama stepped up her plan for curbing childhood obesity Tuesday when she released an action plan with more than 70 recommendations to help curb the troubling trend.
The report on “Let’s Move” prepared by a task forced pulled together earlier this year defines the problem and offers recommendations toward reaching the goal of lowering obesity rates among young folks to just five percent by 2030.
If successful that rate would mirror the rate for children prior to the 1970’s when trends began inching upward.
Here is a summery of the report’s outlined recommendations.
• Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; adherence to limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
• Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help parents make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
• Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.
• Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.
• Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.
Will you work with children in your family following the above recommendations?
March 23, 2010 – Democrats turned the East Room of the White House into a pep rally this afternoon. Led by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the signing ceremony for the President Obama’s health care bill was attended by congressional leaders and Democratic members of the 111th Congress responsible for forging the comprehensive legislation. The room was filled to capacity and a camera could be seen in almost every attendee’s hand.
White House staff and media lined the walls three deep and more than 150 seats were filled with members of Congress, cabinet secretaries and special guests. The president acknowledged the widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Vickie Kennedy, and his son Rep .Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) whose name on this bill fulfills the Kennedy legacy.
The late Senator’s son will be the Kennedy of record on this historic legislation, an issue his father spent a lifetime pursuing. Another well known Kennedy also came to the White House for the signing, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy.
While the merits of the law will be debated for years to come, it was an extraordinary day and one I will remember for years to come.
I will be able to say, “I was there when the health care bill was signed.” I wonder if this is how folks felt when they witnessed the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the creation of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.?
Today there is already a new acronym in Washington: “PHC,” which is short for “post health care.”
Watch and leave your comments below.
Jan. 13, 2010 – I spoke with Rep. Maxine Waters from Los Angeles this morning shortly after the President’s remarks on Haiti.
“I heard the President remarks,” she told me. “It was a very strong statement and much appreciated, especially coming from our highest level of government.”
She added, “We demonstrated a quick response in dealing with the devastation. I am very happy that the Red Cross has set up temporary hospitals and that the U.S. military is already on the ground there.”
She says she’ll reach out to Haitians in the Los Angeles area to organize efforts in L.A. to set up venues for meeting and communication, and a process for Haitian-Americans to try and contact relatives.
The Ambassador of Haiti to the United States, Raymond Joseph, is encouraging Haitian-Americans across the country to set up structures to stay in touch with each other and to get aid to people back home.
Here is a statement released by Waters Tuesday following news of the first earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years:
“I am absolutely devastated to learn of the earthquake that struck Haiti late this afternoon. I fear that an earthquake of this magnitude, with its subsequent aftershocks, has dealt a serious blow to the livelihoods and lives of many Haitians and to the important economic, political and social developments that are underway in the country.
Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I have traveled to Haiti many times, and I have seen the poverty and desperation of the Haitian people with my own eyes. There is widespread unemployment and underemployment, and more than two-thirds of Haitian workers do not have formal jobs. There is a high risk of infectious diseases, including diarrhea, hepatitis, typhoid fever, dengue fever and malaria. The infant mortality rate is nearly 6 percent, and almost half of the adult population cannot read and write.
Many people have worked hard over the years to assist the people of Haiti. I have worked with officials in the U.S. Government and international organizations to bring economic development to Haiti. Meanwhile, dedicated people working with charities and non-governmental organizations are on the ground in Haiti trying to end poverty and help the Haitian people build a brighter future for themselves and their children.
I have also worked very hard over several years to bring debt cancellation to Haiti, which owed over one billion dollars in debts to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other multilateral financial institutions. Last June, the World Bank announced that all of these debts would be completely canceled.
Yet for the people of Haiti, every step forward seems to be followed by three steps backward. In August and September of 2008, Haiti was struck by four hurricanes and tropical storms in rapid succession: Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike. The loss of life and the destruction of infrastructure as a result of these storms were devastating. The storms destroyed more than 22,000 houses and damaged an additional 84,000 houses. Almost all of the agricultural land in the country was flooded, causing more than $200 million in damage to the agricultural sector alone and exacerbating hunger throughout the country. The storms also damaged or destroyed roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure.
I had hoped that this year would be a year of recovery for Haiti. Yet this earthquake could prove to be even more damaging than the storms of 2008. We do not yet know the full extent of the damage, but certainly many Haitians have lost their lives or their loved ones, and many survivors will have lost their homes or livelihoods.
As much as one can be at this time, I am encouraged by statements of support and solidarity from President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and the international community. I urge the U.S. Government, the international community, nonprofit organizations and even individual people to take all appropriate actions to respond to this earthquake and help the Haitian people recover from this terrible tragedy.
My heart is with the people of Haiti tonight, and I commit myself to doing everything I can to help them through this terrible disaster.”
For Americans concerned about family members, friends and other loved ones in Haiti the State Department has set up a telephone line for assistance: 888-407-4747
Author Gil Robertson edited a collection of essays in his recent book titled: “A Family Affair” and he took a moment to talk with me about his latest work.