WASHINGTON – Lincoln,Neb.,Mayor Chris Beutler was among 41 elected officials thanked for their anti-obesity efforts by first lady Michelle Obama.
On Wednesday,Obama recognized “Let’s Move!” city,town and county leaders. The campaign,launched in 2010,is Obama’s initiative to address childhood obesity.
Obesity has a negative effect on Lincoln’s happiness,health-care system and economics,Beutler said in an interview after the event.
“In Lincoln,we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country,and we need every worker we can get and we need for them to show up and be on the job,” Beutler said. “So having a healthy workforce is extremely important to us.”
The National League of Cities partners with “Let’s Move!” to help local officials reduce childhood obesity. The national obesity rate for children and adolescents – 17 percent – is triple the rate of a generation ago,according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Lincoln has won two gold medals and three bronze medals for its efforts.
Beutler said he came to the ceremony and discussion session held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House to find out about what others are doing. He said he wants more data to prove that the activity is having an effect.
For kindergarten through 8th grade students at Lincoln Public Schools,obesity is 16.3 percent for 2012-2013,according to data from the Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln. In 2010-2011,the rate was 17.2 percent.
Obama thanked the leaders for making health a priority for young people.
“You do not have to do what you’re doing,” she said.
Progress has been made,Obama said,in that kids are growing up healthier.
These local leaders are on the ground,she said.
“We all know that you are the ones that can make the biggest difference in this issue,” she said.
Obama asked the leaders to bring more people to the table: parents,faith leaders,business owners and others.
The first lady also spoke about a report that said poor nutrition is the greatest cause of preventable disease.
Anna Wishart,spokeswoman for Lincoln’s “Let’s Move!” campaign,said in a telephone interview from Lincoln that the campaign includes five goals relating to healthy eating and physical activity.
But even after this recognition,Lincoln’s efforts aren’t stopping. Wishart is planning a new initiative for the fall.
“My pie-in-the-sky goal would be that we have more gardens attached to schools and that we teach kids how to grow their own food so that they can see it from start to finish,” she said.
During her remarks,the first lady asked leaders to double down on their efforts.
“It’s important to be involved in how we solve the obesity problem,” Beutler said. “Somebody’s got to do it.”
Reach Christine Scalora at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.