First lady Michelle Obama speaks about childhood obesity to the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010.
Updated: Saturday, 20 Feb 2010, 3:34 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 20 Feb 2010, 3:17 PM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) - First lady Michelle Obama appealed to governors on Saturday for help in reducing child obesity and said they had a moral and financial imperative to act.
She praised states for their steps already and assured state leaders that the federal government had no interest in taking over their efforts.
"Let's stop wringing our hands and talking about it and citing statistics," she told governors at their winter meeting. "Let's act. Let's move. Let's give our kids the future they deserve."
The first lady found a high-powered audience to make the case for her new campaign on obesity. One in three American children is overweight or obese, a condition that raises their risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses.
Obama sought support from leaders of both parties and made sure to respect the influence of the states.
"The way I see this, there is nothing Democratic or Republican, there is nothing liberal or conservative about wanting our kids to lead active, healthy lives," she said. "There's no place for politics when it comes to fighting childhood obesity. And I know all of you agree."
The first lady's campaign has four parts: 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.
In talking to the governors, she emphasized the importance of empowering parents who feel helpless because they don't feel they have the time, money or information to provide healthy meals or safe places to exercise.
Mindful that the governors face economic crises in their states, Obama said the obesity solutions need not be expensive. She encouraged them to take steps such as providing access at school ball fields to the community at nights, or requiring the construction of sidewalks when new roads are being built.
"Comprehensive and coordinated doesn't mean centralized," she added. "I've spoken to so many experts on this issue and not a single one of them has said that the solution is for the federal government to tell people what to do. That doesn't work."
The governors are trying to find political solutions to soaring health care costs as President Barack Obama seeks to do the same. Michelle Obama said the money crunch cannot be solved without addressing child obesity.
"If we think our health care costs are high now, just wait until 10 years from now and think about the many billions we're going to be spending then," she said. "Think about how high those premiums are going to be when our kids are old enough to have families of their own and businesses of their own."
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