Michelle Obama will visit Clinton next week, celebrating Mississippi’s success in reducing childhood obesity (if only a little), and punctuating the point that progress is possible if we take the right approach. That approach is prevention, and focuses on kids in school – where one hopes that essential life lessons are still learned, and lifelong habits of health acquired.
Kids in Clinton schools are eating better and exercising more, and benefit from a supporting community that “owns” the issue of childhood health. Now how about that as a revolutionary recipe for success? A great start, but not enough, to be sure. Not some, but all Mississippi schools need to be serving nutritious meals all the time. Not some, but all schools need vigorous programs of health and physical education. Not some, but all schoolchildren need the support of caring communities (and not just parents, too frequently cued to be scapegoats for larger and systemic problems).
And beyond those school-based factors, we need everywhere in place broader policies that promote health, well-being, and the prevention of chronic disease. Policies that curtail consumption of unhealthy food and drink, that encourage biking and walking, that in general – as state health director Dr. Mary Currier has put it – “make the smart choice the easy choice.”