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Department of Defense Efforts to Combat Childhood Obesity


The Let's Move! campaign, initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama, is an inclusive, wide-ranging program designed to help battle the problem of childhood obesity by embracing a number of different approaches. Guidelines within the program are directed toward not only parents and caregivers, but also towards schools, community leaders, elected officials, health care providers and private sector companies, outlining roles that each can play to improve the health and future well-being of the nation's youth. The campaign provides helpful tips and strategies that:

  • Encourage parents to set a good example for their children by modeling a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity
  • Encourage schools to create a healthy learning environment for children and youth, and to incorporate nutrition and physical education into the school day
  • Urge community leaders to initiate and coordinate activities that promote healthy living
  • Aim directives at elected officials, health care providers and food prep professionals that address the roles that they can play in reducing childhood obesity

"5-2-1-0" Strategy

Strategies such as 5-2-1-0, based on existing guidelines (for example, ChooseMyPlate, physical activity guidelines, and sedentary behavior guidelines), support the ideas, philosophies and goals within the Let's Move! campaign. Such strategies establish guidelines for specific evidence-based practices that help to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, including healthy eating, physical activity, and reducing 'screen time.' Specifically, the 5-2-1-0 strategy promotes the following daily goals for youth:

  • Greater than five servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Less than two hours of screen time
  • More than one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
  • Zero sugar-sweetened drinks each day

Among civilian communities across the nation that have put the 5-2-1-0 strategy into practice, children have reported adopting healthier lifestyle habits.

Department of Defense Youth Polls in 2010 reported that approximately 25 to 35 percent of military youth intend to enlist in military service as adults. Therefore, raising healthy and fit children to become healthy and fit adults is essential to building a strong nation and a strong military.

I Am Moving, I Am Learning Program

In addition, the I Am Moving, I Am Learning program is a proactive approach used among Head Start pre-school aged children, and comprised of the 5-2-1-0 strategies. This program is gaining momentum in reaching a broader contingent of early childhood professionals. The program goals are to:

  • Increase the quantity of time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during daily routines to meet the national guidelines for physical activity
  • Improve the quality of structured movement experiences intentionally facilitated by adults
  • Promote everyday healthy nutrition choices

A collaborative effort between the military services, the DoD, and its land grant university partner, the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, brings together a cadre of early care and education professionals to a regional I Am Moving, I Am Learning 'Train the Trainers' workshop. This joint approach will increase the cadre of trainers available to child care providers within military child development programs.

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness

Further, the DoD, and specifically, the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, has partnered with The Pennsylvania State University to develop the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. Within the Clearinghouse, the Resource Center for the Prevention of Military Child Obesity was developed as part of the strategic plan to support the DoD's commitment to addressing the obesity epidemic in America.

The DoD's Child Obesity Work Group tasked the Clearinghouse's resource center with identifying evidence-based programs and services that employ strategies like those described above within 5-2-1-0. Through this research, the Clearinghouse is infusing empirical evidence into the military's efforts to prevent childhood obesity. Further, the resource center is an interactive, searchable, web-based platform developed for professionals to more effectively address child obesity as well as obesity among the military families they serve.

The Clearinghouse's resource center team has reviewed the evidence from more than 220 programs and services related to the prevention or treatment of obesity in children and adults. Staff members review program materials, including websites, curricula and both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed research evaluating its effectiveness. Using only peer-reviewed, published data, programs are placed in the appropriate category on the Clearinghouse's continuum of evidence. Fact sheets are also developed for each program and can be found on the Clearinghouse website. The Clearinghouse's resource center staff will continue to expand its database in the coming months and will serve as a resource for those working to prevent and treat childhood obesity in military families.


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