White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President

In February, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of this effort, President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an inter-agency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. The action plan defines the goal of ending childhood obesity in a generation as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5 percent by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s. In total, the report presents a series of 70 specific recommendations, many of which can be implemented right away.

The third section of the Task Force's report is "The Built Environment" and has 5 recommendations that promote bike/ped infrastructure and encourage physical fitness to reduce childhood obesity. How communities are designed and function can promote-or inhibit-physical activity for children and adults. The built environment consists of all man-made structures, including transportation infrastructure, schools, office buildings, housing, and parks. Children’s ability to be physically active in their community depends on whether the community is safe to bike or walk, with good sidewalks, comfortable biking facilities,  and reasonable distances between destinations.

Recommendation 5.8: Reauthorize a Surface Transportation Act that enhances livability and physical activity. 
A complete network of safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities would allow children to take more trips through active transportation and get more physical activity. New Federal aid construction projects should accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians by incorporating “Complete Streets” principles. As improvement projects for existing facilities are undertaken, transportation infrastructure should be retrofitted, where feasible, to support and encourage bicycle and pedestrian use. State and local money can also be leveraged to support safe facilities for children to walk or bike to places like parks, playgrounds, transit, and community centers. The reauthorization could adopt Complete Streets principles that would include routine accommodation of walkers and bicyclists for new construction, to influence retrofitting of existing communities, and to support public transportation. In addition, it could enhance authority for recreational areas on public lands.

Recommendation 5.9: The Environmental Protection Agency should assist school districts that may be interested in siting guidelines for new schools that consider the promotion of physical activity, including whether students will be able to walk or bike to school.

Recommendation 5.11: The Federal Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS) should be continued and enhanced to accommodate the growing interest in implementing Safe Routes to Schools plans in communities.

Recommendation 5.12: “Active transport” should be encouraged between homes, schools, and community destinations for after-school activities, including to and from parks, libraries, transit, bus stops, and recreation centers.

Benchmarks of Success

Increase by 50% by 2015 the percentage of children ages 5-18 taking safe walking and biking trips to and from school. An increase of 50% would mean that 19.5% of school trips would be by biking or walking.