Education | Health

Kevin Gover: First Lady takes on obesity among Indian youth

"Bad health remains a major concern for Indian communities throughout the United States. Historically poor access to health care, the absence of recreational opportunities, and bad diets lead to a crisis of obesity and associated health concerns such as diabetes in many parts of Indian country. Indian children are not immune from this epidemic. To the contrary, the onset of adult diabetes in children has become alarmingly common.

Good food is the key component to good health. Traditional Native diets were replete with both wild and cultivated fruits and vegetables and lean meats. During the early decades of the reservation period, those diets were supplanted by government rations consisting of white flour, sugar, cheese, and lard. Survival required the consumption of these commodities in unhealthy amounts, and they became the staples of Native diets on reservations. While these foods kept the people alive, they also made them chronically ill. One food exemplifies the problem. Frybread is widely thought of as a traditional Native food. It’s easy to make. Flour and salt are mixed with water and then fried in lard. But while frybread is a tasty treat, as a dietary staple it is a health nightmare.

Childhood obesity is not just a problem in Indian Country. Throughout the United States, our young people too often eat poorly and exercise little. Fast food, junk food, and lack of exercise are producing historic rates of childhood obesity in the United States. To combat this problem, First Lady Michele Obama is heading a program called “Let’s Move!” The program encourages parents and children to eat healthy foods and exercise."

Get the Story:
Kevin Gover: How “Three Sisters” and Michelle Obama are Helping Indian Country (NMAI Blog 6/8)

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