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Michelle Obama on Schools' Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity

Earlier this week, we published an opinion piece by first lady Michelle Obama from the Phi Delta Kappan, focusing on the ongoing effort to prevent childhood obesity in the U.S. and how schools can help.

Since launching her "Let's Move!" campaign two years ago, "we have seen a new conversation about the health and well-being of our kids," the first lady wrote.

For proof, look no further than the passage of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in December 2010, the Clear Calorie Initiative from the American Beverage Association, and the launch of MyPlate, which replaced the "food pyramid."

Educators have "taken the lead on this issue," Mrs. Obama wrote, by developing nutrition education curricula for students, improving the food being served in schools, and incorporating physical activity into routine classroom tasks.

While there's progress being made on the childhood-obesity front, there's still plenty of work to be done, the first lady says, and "educators have a critically important role to play in the years ahead."

"We know that budgets are tight and resources are scarce, but, every day in schools of all sizes across the country, educators are getting creative," she wrote.

For example, the Ohio Afterschool Network released a guide earlier this year, in conjunction with the state health department, suggesting creative ways after-school programs can promote physical activity to their students. And last summer, I wrote about a nontraditional school in Seattle that's teaching students about friction, inertia, geology, and geography through rock climbing.

In her piece, Mrs. Obama commended schools that leave their gymnasiums open to students over the weekend, along with those that incorporate nutrition education into other subjects.

"Every day, educators are showing us that it doesn't take a lot of money or resources to help our kids stay healthy," she wrote.

Given the growing amount of research linking physical activity to academic success, Mrs. Obama only hopes that policymakers understand the impact that these efforts can have on the lives of children.

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