Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Childhood Obesity: * Political Leadership * Governing Success *

As governor of Arkansas for 10 ½ years, Mike Huckabee has a track record of proven leadership that actually helped those he governed. In 2003 Gov. Huckabee created the Healthy Arkansas Initiative which aimed to improve physical activity, healthy eating, and eliminate the use of tobacco. As someone who was once vastly overweight, Huckabee took it upon himself to turn around not only his own weight problem, but those citizens in his own state. At his urging, the Arkansas legislature acted in 2003 to pass a comprehensive measure to fight childhood obesity in public schools and local communities, taking aggressive action before many other states had begun to address the problem.  

Gov. Huckabee emphasized a program that was introduced earlier in the spring by Arkansas Speaker of the House, Herschel W. Cleveland, which would have children's BMI’s measured while they were in school.  These results were then sent home to the student’s parents so they could be informed about their child’s health.  In an AP article from June of 2006, it stated:

The letters record each child's body-mass index, the same weight-height formula used to calculate adult obesity. The first batch went out in the 2003-04 school year.

Across the state 57 percent of doctors said they had at least one parent bring in their child's letter from the school for discussion during the last school year.

And the state has found that most parents and children are comfortable with the weigh-in program — 71 percent of parents and 61 percent of adolescents, according to a survey.

"Once they realized we didn't hand (the letters) to kids to wave around the schoolyard . . . a lot of the original concerns were alleviated," said Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has championed healthy diets after dropping more than 100 pounds himself. "This was not an invasive procedure where a child is asked to lift a shirt and be pinched with calipers."

This was such a successful program that other states followed suit, including  California, Florida and Pennsylvania.  Haley Barbour agreed with Huckabee leadership and decided to follow suit and started the Mississippi in Motion program.

Huckabee went on to join Bill Clinton as co-chair of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  This organization was founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and the William J Clinton Foundation to combat childhood obesity by providing kids with tools so they can make healthier lifestyle choices. 

"The best way to prevent heart disease in adults is to cultivate healthy lifestyle habits in children,”
said Governor Huckabee. “I hope that this effort will help American families, and especially children,
to eat better, be more active, and live longer lives."  

Both Huckabee and Clinton went on to produce PSA’s for Nickelodeon in which they shared their own childhood experiences and why they felt it was important to stay healthy and active.

Huckabee announced in August of 2006 that the Healthy Arkansas campaign was a success. The upward trend of obesity had come to a stopping point.  "We have stopped the runaway train," Gov. Mike Huckabee said. "This is not the destination, this is the turning point."  "We want to make clear we have not resolved the issue -- we've simply stopped it from getting worse," Huckabee cautioned.

As chairman of the National Governors Association, Huckabee went on to transfer many of the provisions of the “Healthy Arkansas” program to a “Healthy America” initiative . 

Huckabee has since then been on a mission to show that America does indeed have a health crisis.  Huckabee has consistently argued that before we can solve the healthcare crisis, America has to address it's  health crisis and obesity is the number one problem.  In both debates and in interviews Huckabee argued for working on America’s health issues first rather than change the whole structure health coverage as Obamacare does.

Huckabee went on the Stossel show in January of 2010 to discuss the "Food Police."  Huckabee did a great job of defending the initiatives he put into place in Arkansas against Libertarian Stossel’s accusation that the government was trying to have too much power.

Notice how the libertarian audience changed their view on the Arkansas plan after they heard what Huckabee actually did.

Huckabee discussed his interview with Michelle Obama on Don Imus's show  back in February 2010:

The latest gotcha moment that the blogosphere is trying to capitulate is that Huckabee is on the opposite side of Sarah Palin.  Huckabee was asked on a radio show interview which side he would take.  Mike Huckabee agrees with Michelle Obama because Huckabee has already taken action on this issue, and he has seen the success of that action. posted Mike Huckabee's response:

"With all due respect to my colleague and friend, Sarah Palin, I think she's misunderstood what Michelle Obama is trying to do.

Michelle Obama isn't trying to tell people what to eat or not trying to force the government's desires on people, but she's stating the obvious: that we do have an obesity crisis in this country and if you don't believe it, I always tell people:

'Walk into any 3rd grade class and look around and then go back and pick up your 3rd grade school class picture, if you're an adult.

Look at that picture and tell me what you see that looks starkly different than what you'll see in today's 3rd grade. It will shock you.'

25% of the people attempting to get into the military today can't do so because they are grossly obese.

We're not even going to have a fighting force if we continue at the rate we're going, and the health care costs are staggering with 80% of health care costs in this country going toward chronic disease -- a lot of which is caused by obesity.

So the First Lady's campaign is on-target, and it's not saying that you can't or shouldn't ever eat a dessert, but it's saying that if you start rewarding kids with sugary things and make them think that when they're good, they get sugar, and when they're bad, they have to eat vegetables, you do what happened to me -- and, I think, really a lot of people -- we condition ourselves to think that we're really only good when we're just sugaring up."

Childhood Obesity is a growing problem within the United States.  The same goes for our growing fiscal deficit.  Do we want a leader who sees the problem, creates initiatives, and gets results?  Or do we want to continue to let the problem fester until there is no eventual solution?  I'll take Huckabee's solutions.

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