The First Lady, the Olympics, and the Statistics

First-Lady-Michelle-Obama
One American contribution to the London Olympics was the presence of First Lady Michelle Obama, who headed the presidential delegation to the events. She also appeared before 1,000 schoolchildren for a Let’s Move! event. As Rajiv Narayan points out, this serves to bring awareness of the obesity epidemic to the world, some parts of which are apparently not aware. The journalist says:

While Michelle Obama enjoys an iconic status across the globe, it’s difficult for her efforts on childhood obesity to get notice in the international press when the United States is a constant and multifaceted player in the world arena. The Olympics ally her global presence to a topical stage, a venue in which it is more than appropriate to hold discourse on obesity everywhere.

Also, Narayan associates this activity with a stratagem called “fighting brands with brands.” In other words, the presence of Let’s Move! in the person of one of the world’s most famous women is a needed counterbalance to the influence of other brands associated with the Olympic Games, including the sponsors Coca Cola and McDonald’s.

The First Lady told her audience:

Being an Olympian isn’t just about winning the gold or setting a new record; it’s really about pushing yourself. It’s about believing in yourself and refusing to give up.

But the idea of associating the games so strongly with the anti-childhood-obesity movement might also contain a considerable downside, identified by Courtney Hodrick:

On the other hand, watching Olympians compete could be discouraging for kids who realistically will never be able to do the things that these professional athletes can, particularly those who have never gotten much exercise and for whom starting to get moving will be a struggle. Watching the best athletes in the world compete can set up essentially unattainable expectations that, when coupled with a competitive mentality that focuses on being the best, sends kids the message that if they can’t be the best in the world they shouldn’t even bother trying.

And how is Let’s Move! coming along at home, by the way? For HealthDay, Steven Reinberg addresses the question explicitly by obtaining a quotation from the director of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Alan Guttmacher says:

Childhood obesity and childhood asthma continue to be major problems.

For starters, more American children live in poverty, and a lot of experts find meaningful links between childhood obesity and economic status, which means the increase in child poverty can only exacerbate the childhood obesity situation. On the other hand, when it comes to specific statistics, it appears that fewer children live in “food insecure” homes — 22% in 2010, down a whopping 1% from the previous year.

And childhood obesity percentages for kids between 6 and 17 years of age? In 2007-2008, 19% of them were obese. In 2009-2010, only 18%. Of course, one problem with measuring childhood obesity is that the results of any intervention may not be evident immediately, but can show up long-term. In any case, amongst the chaos of the world’s “ten thousand things,” cause-and-effect relationships are notoriously difficult to trace.

Photo Note:
First Lady Michelle Obama is picked up by U.S. Olympic wrestler Elena Pirozhkova during a greet with Team USA Olympic athletes competing in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, at the U.S. Olympic Training Facility at the University of East London in London, England, July 27, 2012.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Michelle Obama Fights Obesity Crisis By Bringing Lets Move Campaign to London 2012,” Policymic, 07/31/12
Source: “Michelle Obama Obesity Campaign at London 2012 Olympics Will Not Succeed,” Policymic, 07/12
Source: “Annual Report on U.S. Kids’ Health a Mixed Bag,” HealthDay, 07/13/12

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  1. […] a year ago, Dr. Judith S. Palfrey was appointed to lead Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity. The former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics […]

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