February 7, 2011
At a special ceremony today, Cambridge officially signed on to First Lady Michelle Obama’s national campaign to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign last February to raise awareness about childhood obesity and inspire families, schools, and communities to take action to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.
At the celebration, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard K. Koh, a Cambridge native and a former Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, declared the city to be the nation’s newest Let’s Move! city.
The Let's Move! signing ceremony at the Haggerty School. Photo by Suzy Feinberg.
"We salute the heroes who are dedicated to reducing childhood obesity," said Dr. Koh. "Cambridge has excelled in promoting and launching these elements into its 'Healthy Living Cambridge Kids’ program. We encourage more communities around the nation to lead by example."
As a Let’s Move! city, Cambridge will support efforts to promote healthier foods, increase opportunities for physical activity, make healthy foods more affordable and accessible, and help parents make healthy family choices.
The celebration, held at the Haggerty elementary school, also showcased the city’s innovative approaches to this complex and troubling public health issue.
Haggerty School fifth and sixth graders show off some fancy footwork during a ballroom dancing demonstration at the Let's Move! Cambridge event. Photo by Suzy Feinberg.
Cambridge is one of the first cities in the U.S. to collect and analyze height, weight, and fitness data on all public school students in grades K–8.
"We know from the data that 34% of Cambridge school children are either overweight or obese," said Claude-Alix Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. "As they get older, these kids are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many other serious conditions."
The Cambridge statistics reflect a national problem: Today, nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese.
The good news in Cambridge is that a decade-long effort to curb the childhood obesity epidemic is showing results. Based on data collected between 2004 and 2007, Cambridge public school children in grades K–8 experienced a significant decrease in obesity. During this time, the proportion of children who were healthy weight increased by 11% overall, and 40% of children who were obese moved into the overweight category.
"It wasn’t one action that made the difference—it was a number of programs and policies aimed at creating a healthier environment for children here in the city," said Jacob. "There isn’t a magic cure for the obesity epidemic."
Cambridge is considered a national leader in healthy weight promotion. Since the late 1990s, a diverse team of public health professionals, civic leaders and cities agencies, academics, parent activists, and the Cambridge Public Schools have been working together to develop innovative approaches to physical activity, offering healthier and locally grown foods in its school meals program, producing health and fitness progress reports, establishing school gardens in all elementary schools, and developing model school nutrition policies.
The Cambridge Let’s Move! ceremony is one of 18 events taking place across the country this month to mark the first anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign and inspire other communities to take action. In addition to Dr. Koh, speakers included Lauren Smith, MD, MPH, Medical Director for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; City Manager Robert Healy, Mayor David Maher; Vice-Mayor Henrietta Davis; and Claude-Alix Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer.
For more information about the Cambridge healthy weight initiative, contact Josefine Wendel at the Cambridge Public Health Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-665-3765.
To learn more about the Let’s Move campaign, visit www.letsmove.gov.