Several rounds of applause interrupted First Lady Michelle Obama as she spoke at the NAACP National Convention in Kansas City, Mo. on July 12. After thanking the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for over 100 years of fighting for the Black community, she solicited their support to end an issue that is distressing African American communities at alarming rates: childhood obesity.
Attacking the potentially deadly problem through her “Let’s Move!” campaign, Obama has made childhood obesity her central focus during her husband’s time in office.
“She gave an arousing address,” Chris Fleming, NAACP spokesman, told the AFRO. “It was very well received.”
One in three children in America are currently obese, Obama told the audience. But, “African-American children are significantly more likely to be obese than are White children. Nearly half of African-American children will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. People, that’s half of our children,” she said, according to a transcript of her speech released by the White House.
It’s not about how “our kids” look, but about how they feel, she said, and the health of the nation, and the nation’s economy. While childhood obesity affects every demographic, like many other issues, she said Blacks are being hit even harder.
“We are living today in a time where we’re decades beyond slavery, we are decades beyond Jim Crow; when one of the greatest risks to our children’s future is their own health,” she said, according to the transcript. “And if we don’t do something to reverse this trend right now, our kids won’t be in any shape to continue the work begun by the founders of this great organization. They won’t be in any condition to confront all those challenges that we know still remain.”
In her “Let’s Move!” campaign, Obama outlined four components to creating healthier lives for children: giving parents information to make healthy decisions for their families; getting healthier food into schools; helping kids find new ways to get and stay active and fit; and making fresh, affordable food accessible to all families.
Each aspect of the campaign are areas that Obama said her parents taught her when she was a child. She recalled playing softball, freeze tag and double-dutch as a kid because her parents wouldn’t allow her to sit around the house all day.
“Kids nowadays don’t even know how to jump double-dutch!” she said, drawing laughter from the audience. With school budgets slashing recess and fears about safety keeping children indoors in the afternoon, there is too much time left to watch TV, play video games or surf the Internet. These activities cause African-American children to consume an extra 167 calories a day, she said.
“We can offer people the best health care money can buy, but if they’re still leading unhealthy lives, then we’ll still just be treating those diseases and conditions once they’ve developed rather than keeping people from getting sick in the first place,” Obama said.
Fleming said the NAACP plans to launch a major childhood obesity campaign of its own in the fall, and said the organization will continue to work with the first lady in her crusade against obesity.