Regardless of where you stand politically, there is no denying that America’s recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thrown forward countless stories of heroism and examples of individuals who are ready to step up for the cause.
There is another important war that Americans have been engaged in for some time now, at home, which is in need of some heroes. That’s the war on obesity, especially in children.
Most of us know the grim statistics — almost 36 percent of Americans are obese (17 percent of children aged 2 to 19) , $147 billion is spent every year on health problems related to obesity (forecasted to rise to $343 billion in 2018), and if you add overweight people to the computation two in three Americans has a distorted Body Mass Index (BMI).
Fortunately, some folks — in government, not-for profits, and business have decided that it is time to fight the fat.
Recognizing that healthy habits are formed early on, the White House Task Force on Child Obesity launched the Let’s Move campaign in 2010 aimed at not just promoting healthier food consumption in children but also encouraging them to adopt a more active lifestyle. Chaired by the First Lady, Let’s Move has won some important early battles: 5,000 schools now meet health nutrition and fitness standards, and collaboration with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will lead to the creation of “Play Streets” in 10 cities where streets will be closed to traffic so kids can run, walk, bike, or play.
Children are also the focus at hip beverage retailer Jamba Juice. Their Team Up for a Healthy America campaign revolves around asking people to make a pledge to eat and live healthier. In return for every pledge Jamba Juice would donate $1 for purchase of athletic equipment in schools. The company has already donated $100,000 and estimates that 15,000 students have benefited from the equipment purchased.
Shape Up America (SUA) is a not-for-profit focused on raising awareness about obesity and providing information on healthy weight management. Founded in 1994 by Dr. C Everest Koop, — the 13th Surgeon General of the USA and a man widely credited with changing public perceptions about smoking — the organization is most famous for its Cyberkitchen program. Enter details like age, height, gender and activity level on their website and the Cyberkitchen will not only calculate your daily calorie goal, but also recommend a range of meals that will help you meet this goal.
Bosnian-born Samir Becic calls America home. An acclaimed martial arts and fitness expert-turned-entrepreneur who once headed the fitness program at a large American fitness chain, it pains him to see the unhealthy lifestyle many American adults lead. This motivated him to develop the ReSync Method, a fitness regime that simulates natural body movements, and exercising the whole body at once. Not just content with teaching this method, Becic founded a not-for-profit Health and Fitness Revolution, which organizes events like the eight-week Health and Fitness Challenge in Houston, aimed at changing people’s lifestyles. “The idea is to fight the war on obesity in a very positive way” says he.
That positivity seems to be yielding results. In 2010 the announcement by 16 food and beverage companies that they would reduce 1.5 trillion calories in the U.S. market by 2015 was met by overwhelming skepticism. Incredibly, the goal was met this year, two whole years ahead of the plan.
Hopefully, such examples motivate many more Americans to join this fight and the nation can still beat what is literally one of the biggest challenges facing it.