Interview with Partnership For A Healthier America (Continued)


The Scope of the Challenge

Kelly: Larry, you have quite a background in policy work in Washington given all the strides you made on the policy front in the JDRF. Some might say this represents a different direction for you — definitely one that those of us that know you well are very excited about. Could you talk about what the surprises have been and what you think the biggest challenges are?

Larry Soler: In terms of the challenges and the surprises, one of the surprises has been the extent that Mrs. Obama's focus on the issue has really deepened the understanding of people and companies and other players across the world about the child obesity problem. I think this effective use of her bully pulpit has helped the work that Jim and I are doing here. I see evidence of that through the increasing interest that we are getting from the private sector. We're extremely busy having meetings and talking to companies, ranging from those that make food to those that are not involved in anything related to this issue. There has generally been strong interest, which has been great for us.

I think one of the challenges we have is our ambition. The goal that Mrs. Obama and the partnership have laid out – solving the childhood obesity crisis within a generation – is a challenge. The problem is much more complex than I ever really knew. The depth of the problem is so wide that it leads to a lot of opportunities for us. But we're also going to have to be at this for a while and really build on what people have been working on over the last 10, 15, and 20 years.

Kelly: We've been talking about the scope of the challenge, and Larry, you were going into how it is much broader and deeper than even you anticipated. Can you discuss that at greater length for us?

Larry: I think many people come to this problem and see it in certain ways that I think are narrower than what the reality is. It's not just about parenting. It's not just about child behavior. It's not just about food. It's a range of all kinds of things that also include whether people have access to healthy food, or whether people have safe environments so they can exercise and be physically active, so they can walk to the park. You're dealing with a whole set of factors that go beyond just food and physical activity. So getting at that makes the whole issue more complex.

I think that the companies we are talking to understand what's at stake, because one in three children are now overweight or obese, and the cost that obesity is placing on society is estimated to be $150 billion dollars per year, but probably a lot more. We cannot sustain that, and it's going to affect every segment of our society.

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Last Modified Date: April 23, 2013

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