Let’s Move! Campaign: 5 Ways the County is Fighting Childhood Obesity

Look in the mirror. Are you overweight? How about your children? It wouldn’t be a surprise. More than half of all the adults in San Diego County are overweight or obese. About one-third of the County’s children are also overweight or obese. That staggering statistic reflects what is happening with children nationwide. In the last 30 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled.

First Lady Michelle Obama was so concerned she launched the Let’s Move! campaign to reverse the trend. She challenged the country’s leaders to solve the problem within a generation. The County of San Diego took on the challenge and in November, 2010 became the first designated Let’s Move! county in the nation.

“The County of San Diego is very engaged and is a national leader in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Board Chairman Ron Roberts. 

Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors heard a report on what’s been implemented. Here are the highlights of the five ways the County is using to fight obesity.   

Getting Children a Healthy Start on Life

The County helps expecting mothers with good prenatal care, and promotes breastfeeding and quality childcare that offer nutritious food and physical activities. Countywide, nurses made more than 11,500 home visits to first-time, low-income  pregnant women since July 1, 2011 to help them make healthy choices through the Nurse Family Partnership.

Empowering Parents and Caregivers

County Parks offered a free Healthy Living Series of workshops on proper nutrition and the importance of physical activity.

Providing Healthy Food in Schools

The County implemented the school nutrition plan and increased the number of schools offering breakfast in the classroom. Fresh produce is now served daily to students in the San Diego Unified School District. After-school programs offer healthy cooking classes and school gardens are increasingly popular. The Department of Environmental Health helps guide schools in operating community gardens and in composting alternatives.

Improving Access to Healthy, Affordable Foods  

Farmers markets and community gardens are now encouraged in County parks and other unincorporated areas. Families receiving benefits through Women, Infant and Children (WIC), Supplemental Security Income and CalFresh were given incentives to buy fresh produce at certain farmers markets.

Increasing Physical Activity

Improvements to trails and parks were made with physical activity in mind. For example, Sweetwater Regional Park now features a playground with a children’s climbing wall, a splash park and a 13-station exercise circuit, among other improvements. The County             also plans to use $1 million in grant money from the Safe Route to School program to build or improve 1,685 feet of sidewalks and bike paths.

This is just a sampling of the many ways the County is fighting child obesity. The overall goal is to reduce the childhood obesity rate to just 5 percent by 2030.

“This is a holistic program necessary to change behavior,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. “Obesity is a terrible risk for our country.”  

So what’s next? The plan is to involve everyone in the fight against this health problem; schools, parents and all the communities in the region. The Let’s Move campaign already starts with pre-natal care and extends throughout the school years. County officials hope the lessons learned will make a lifelong difference for children as they grow into adults and have children of their own.