Go First Lady!

Well done Michelle Obama.  I commend her “Let’s Move” public awareness campaign to help stem the tide of childhood obesity in the US, launched on February 9th and outlined in the NZ Herald.

A critical success factor is that this campaign appears to stem from Michelle’s own personal family learnings and experience prior to entering the White House.  And now that she’s mother of the nation it makes sense to bring these learnings to her new, wider family.  It’s a PR dream.

The four campaign pillars are: helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in school vending machines and lunch lines, making healthy food more available and affordable, and encouraging children to exercise more.

Yes, it is ambitious – but what I like is that it’s multifaceted – like obesity itself.  The true causes of obesity in a population are highly complex, because they vary so much from person to person, so no single approach will ever be successful.  What’s needed for prevention is a multifaceted approach across the population, to allow for this individual variation.

Within “Let’s Move” there are specific plans to work with the food industry on developing easily understood food labels, encouraging doctors to better identify and work with those children at risk, serving healthier food in schools, offering tax breaks to improve access to healthier food in specific areas, consumer education programmes providing tips and resources, and encouraging at least 60 minutes of exercise daily.

All really good common sense stuff, that’s pulled together as one campaign with one clear goal, by a powerful, talented and nurturing figurehead.  As discussed on Rebecca Scritchfield’s US healthcare blog, recognition of the fact that governments alone will not solve the challenge of obesity is another critical success factor of Let’s Move.  Surely it’s the sort of approach our own government should be taking?  Why then abolish the progress made on making school food here healthier?  Why take the view that education on its own doesn’t work, so stop marketing and producing healthy eating education and resources?  Why stop programmes already working to improve access to healthier foods in communities?  Why not commend food companies for the progress they’ve already voluntarily made (for example labelling foods with %DI information to help consumers plan their food and beverage intake)?

Our government seems to be focusing on exercise as a silver bullet.  What do you think?  Who would our Let’s Move figurehead be?  Would people believe this of Bronagh?

(PS – these questions aren’t rhetorical.  I’d really like to hear your views!)

Categories: Food Industry, Food Trends, Health Promotion, Nutrition and Health

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4 replies »

  1. I don’t see Mrs Key having quite the same impact in NZ. I’m not sure who would make a good figurehead – possibly an All Black or Silver Fern to front a campaign on the benefits of both good nutrition and exercise on behalf of Govt. Who do we target with the messages? – parents and/or kids

    Agree we need to maintain the momentum of what the last Government did with guidelines of foods/drinks sold in schools as this was a good incentive for some industry groups to address the nutritional composition of their products.

  2. Still cannot believe the blind dogmatism that has lead the current Minister of Health to dismantle the HEHA initiatives and wonder if he can see any irony between his actions and the programmes under way in the “land of the free”

    Remain pessimistic that any thing will change soon but we should all try and bring this to the cuurent administration’s attention any time we can.

  3. Thanks Fiona and Lyn for your feedback. One can only hope our Government is watching Michelle’s progress with interest.

  4. Great approach because it has good reach – but I cannot think of anyone in New Zealand with that sort of charisma and many New Zealanders do not seem to like tall poppies. Children are important but the biggest bang for the buck would be to start earlier, before egg meets sperm to make the intrauterine environment healthier. The start to a babies life has huge effects on their future life – some are irreversible including reduced brain power. We need to get away from the one nutrient, one food, one quick fix approach.
    Change the food (and activity) pattern for the whole family- it is not just for Maori a whanau approach is needed; family are the centre of everyones culture including the food industry. The social marketing we had encouraging families to eat together was getting great penetration in Maori and Pacific too. We are losing ground now!