By Karen Herzog
The first lady’s broader “Let’s Move!” initiative, launched last year, aims to eliminate the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Over the past three decades, rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. have tripled. Nearly one in three children is now considered overweight or obese. An equal portion—one in three children born after 2000—will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, an all-time high, according to projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The problem is more acute among American Indians.
The Indian Country initiative aims to bring together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners and tribes across the country to improve access to healthy food and prenatal services, implement nutrition and physical education programs, and engage Indian youth, parents and communities in active, healthy lifestyle choices.
The Menominee tribe was chosen to host the initiative’s launch because 99% of its schoolchildren recently chose to participate in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge, which involved exercising five days a week for one hour a day over a six-week period, said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
By Alex Morrell
The program, which aims at ending childhood obesity, runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will include information booths and 19 activity stations for families and children of all ages, such as traditional lacrosse, a relay, indigenous tag and capture game, and an obstacle course.
Tribal Chairman Randal Chevalier said the tribe was selected to launch the initiative in part because Menominee County, which largely shares common boundaries with the Menominee Reservation, ranked last out of 72 Wisconsin counties in overall health factors and outcomes.
"I can attest that there is no better place for this initiative," Chevalier said. "Becoming a healthier community starts with our children, so I am delighted that we can address these issues in such a big way."
The tribe struggles with high rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, smoking and abuse of drugs and alcohol, Chevalier said, but the tribe has also taken initiative to develop programs to encourage healthy living, including a diabetes prevention program.