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Michelle Obama comes to Philadelphia to launch anti-obesity initiative

By Jan Ransom
Philadelphia Daily News

PHILADELPHIA and other cities can’t afford to ignore childhood obesity.

That was first lady Michelle Obama’s message Wednesday when she announced the latest effort from her Let’s Move campaign geared at fighting childhood obesity, a campaign that kicked off in 2010.

The new effort is a nationwide collaboration with the National League of Cities to help local officials improve child health. Backed by $1 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the NLC’s Institute for Health, Education and Families will provide local mayors with tools and technical assistance to improve nutrition and promote physical activity among youth.

“Local leaders know the critical impact these issues have on their communities,” said Obama, who appeared at the Lenfest Police Athletic Center in Hunting Park with Mayor Nutter, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., and other mayors from around the country. “You all see it in your budgets in the tens of millions of dollars in health-care costs. You see it in your workforce, because when kids aren’t healthy they miss more days at school, and that can mean higher absenteeism as parents have to stay at home and care for these kids.”

Officials can sign up and learn more at healthycommunitieshealthyfuture.org — a new website designed to encourage leaders to participate in the program and improve the health of residents while sharing ideas and best practices online. Participants must commit to five goals, which include improving access to affordable, healthy foods at stores and schools and setting food-service guidelines. Those who sign up will have access to experts, resources, tracking tools and maps provided by the NLC to help them make healthy changes and track progress.

Nutter said he was committed to fighting this battle in Philadelphia, which has high levels of childhood obesity.

“We can do more to help our children live healthier lives,” Nutter said. “It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.”

Through the city’s own public-health initiative, Get Healthy Philadelphia, the city has improved access to healthy food and has opened 10 farmers’ markets in low-income areas.

Several mayors shared stories about their cities’ efforts to improve residents’ health. Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City said 47,000 residents participated in a dieting initiative and together lost a million pounds.

Also, Partnership for a Healthy America and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will fund street closings in 10 cities and towns to provide safe play spaces for families between now and October 2013. Local leaders can apply for funding at www. ahealthieramerica.org/PlayStreetsRFP.

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