The recent report on the nation’s skyrocketing obesity rates made the task of the Kalamazoo County Champions of Healthy Kids all the more urgent after its leaders learned that the major determinant of a family’s health is its social and economic status because it dictates the opportunities and resources available to them.

Champions, which promotes healthy eating and daily exercise for children throughout Kalamazoo County, was begun last year by the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo together with a coalition of community leaders from schools, local businesses, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, and government. They met recently for their second annual summit at Western Michigan University. Read more

HBO has a history of tackling serious American health-care crises. In recent years, the cable network has taken on addiction and Alzheimer’s to much critical acclaim. And now the network has turned its attention to another huge health problem: Obesity and its enormous economic, emotional, social, and health cost on individuals, families, communities, and the country at large.

As Americans have gained weight in recent years, rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other obesity-related health problems have also skyrocketed. Rates of Type 2 diabetes (once known as “adult-onset diabetes”) are soaring among kids. And this is a generation of people that may well die at a younger age than their parents, largely because of medical concerns associated with excess weight.

These facts have become commonplace to those of us who have been paying attention. Still, The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic serves as a clarion call to the country to take action — and fast — to combat this pernicious, complex problem that has myriad root causes. Read more

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signals a significant change in how we invest in our children and their health. Thanks to the tireless efforts of thousands of people who are working hard to get America’s schools to serve healthier food, including First Lady Michelle Obama, the $4.5 billion “Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act 2010” prevailed in the lame-duck session of Congress, and is being signed into law by President Obama today. The new law marks a key step toward potentially transforming the food served in America’s public schools. Read more

It’s a good thing First Lady Michelle Obama is an Ivy-league educated lawyer, because with Let’s Move, her ambitious campaign to end child obesity in a generation, she has waded into a debate that has, since the nation’s founding, been at the center of our national discourse: Individual rights vs. the interests of the state. It’s all under the rubric of improving child health and making healthy food available to all, of course, but Mrs. Obama has spent a lot of time in the past two weeks explaining how her campaign is not treading on Constitutional issues, or personal choice. And that it’s not about government control, but rather about individuals and groups taking responsibility for their own actions, with food choices and health choices. Debates in America about food/agriculture and health are already highly contentious, with a longstanding philosophical divide between those who promote conventional production vs. organic and sustainable production, between the value of local foodsheds vs. transnational sourcing, among other things. Mrs. Obama’s new campaign adds an entirely new portfolio of issues to the discourse. Read more