|Kass on CBS This Morning|
Washington, DC -- During a live interview that aired early Wednesday on CBS This Morning, Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass said that a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a modest drop in the prevalence of obesity among low-income preschoolers in the United States is "an unprecedented breakthrough," and credited it to First Lady Michelle Obama's child obesity campaign, launched in February of 2010.
The CDC report covers the period between 2008 and 2011.
"We were just thrilled and the First Lady was absolutely overjoyed," Kass told CBS co-hosts Norah O’Donnell and Anthony Mason.
"We know that our actions around the country and with the First Lady are really making a difference," Kass said.
Using federal government health survey data for 11.6 million children ages 2-4 enrolled in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs, researchers analyzed forty states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).
20 reported obesity rates that held steady, and 19 saw declines, with rates going up slightly in 3 states. Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands had at least a 1 percentage point decrease in their rates.
Mrs. Obama in June of 2011 launched a program specifically designed for early childhood intervention, Let's Move! Childcare. It now has 10,000 participants, according to Kass.
"The leadership from childcare providers from across the country I know is making a big difference," Kass said.
"We know that for the first time in over three decades, since the beginning of this epidemic, we're seeing broad declines."
Still, Kass noted that Let's Move! is not necessarily the sole reason for the reported drop in prevalence, which was already leveling off among low-income preschoolers between 2003-and 2008, according to CDC.
"I don’t think there's any one cause that we can see to, you know, give us this drop," Kass said. "It’s a complex issue and we need complex solutions."
Let's Move! has focused programs for specific populations and activities located in more than thirteen federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Interior, Health and Human Services and Treasury.
Mrs. Obama's campaign has a goal of reducing the national rate of childhood obesity from its current level of about 17% to just 5% by 2030.
Kass on Tuesday blogged about the CDC report on the LetsMove.gov site.
"The evidence is in, and we could not be more excited!" Kass wrote, but added that "while this evidence shows we’re on the right track, it continues to be a call to action."
Transcript released by CBS This Morning:
NORAH O'DONNELL: For the first time, the CDC reports a modest drop in obesity for low-income preschoolers in 19 states. With us now from Washington, Sam Kass, a White House advisor, chef and point man for Michelle Obama's “Let's Move!” campaign. He joins us for an interview you'll only see on CBS THIS MORNING. Good morning, Sam. So what did you think when you heard the news from the CDC that the obesity rates are going down?
SAM KASS: You know, we were just thrilled and the First Lady was absolutely overjoyed. We are really seeing the country unite around our kids’ health. And for the first time in decades, we're really seeing a shift downwards, and that is an unprecedented breakthrough and we know that our actions around the country and with the First Lady are really making a difference. We have a long way to go, but we're on the right track.
NORAH O'DONNELL: This has been a signature issue for Mrs. Obama, the “Let's Move!” campaign, which you're involved in as a chef. What about the campaign do you think led to this drop in obesity rates?
SAM KASS: I don’t think there's any one cause that we can see to, you know, give us this drop. It’s a complex issue and we need complex solutions. But we know that early childhood is such an important component of making sure that our kids are on the right track to a healthy life. So the First Lady launched Let's Move Childcare, and that is working with over 10,000 childcare centers from across the country to get healthier snacks, better beverages, to make sure kids aren't getting too much screen time and that they're running around. And the leadership from childcare providers from across the country I know is making a big difference, but it's been a lot of efforts from leadership across the country that's going to lead to declines as broad as these.
ANTHONY MASON: Sam, the CDC says much of the credit is due to changes in the government's food plan like removing juice and adding low-fat milk. Is there any real evidence that that's making a difference?
SAM KASS: I think we know that improving - I think you're referring to the WIC program - improving the food that's available to mothers and early childhood kids is absolutely critical to getting them on a healthy start. So I don't think you're going to be able to see "here's the one reason that we're seeing the declines," because there's a lot of reasons that we're seeing the troubles that we had. But we know that for the first time in over three decades, since the beginning of this epidemic, we're seeing broad declines. It's not happening by mistake. It's happening because people are stepping up, from parents, teachers, doctors and community leaders to really make some changes, and that's why we're seeing such good results.
*Photo & video by CBS This Morning