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Mom in Chief: Let's move

Dr. William Muiños is alarmed at how early in life obesity is making children sick.

``I see obese toddlers and preschool children with sleep apnea,'' said Muiños, who runs a weight-loss program for children at Miami Children's Hospital. ``I see obese kids 8 to 10 years old with fatty livers and high sugar levels.''

Muiños was among the South Florida physicians and school administrators who applauded first lady Michelle Obama's new initiative to get kids eating healthier and exercising more.

``We need more soldiers for this battle,'' Muiños said of Obama's Let's Move campaign, which was launched Tuesday.

The first lady's campaign has four parts: helping parents make better food choices, serving healthier food in school, making healthy food more available and affordable, and encouraging children to exercise more.

``This isn't like a disease where we're still waiting for the cure to be discovered,'' she said. ``We know the cure for this.''

Over the past two decades, the percentage of overweight adolescents nationwide has more than doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, nearly a third of all high school students are overweight or obese, or at risk of becoming so.

According to the Mayo Clinic, childhood obesity increases risks of high blood pressure, asthma and other respiratory problems, liver disease, early puberty or menarche, eating disorders and skin infections.

Obama's new initiative will mobilize a number of nonprofit organizations, government agencies and private businesses.

For example:

• The Food and Drug Administration will work with manufacturers to adopt better nutrition labeling on the front of packages.

• The American Academy of Pediatrics will encourage doctors to monitor children's body mass indexes -- and tell parents what they can do to increase active play.

• Television networks and media companies will launch a new public information campaign on channels that cater to children. Professional athletes and Looney Tunes characters will be the stars.

• The Department of Agriculture will identify communities that lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The department will also update the food pyramid.

• The National School Board Association, the Council of Great City Schools and the American Association of School Administrators will ensure that urban schools meet the standards for healthy eating.

• The White House will expand the President's Physical Fitness Challenge and honor more students with the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.

Michelle Obama hopes Congress will reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, which would improve the quality of the national school lunch and breakfast program. It would also get more fruits, vegetables, grains and low-fat dairy products into schools.

South Florida school systems are already working to promote healthy eating and physical fitness.

The Miami-Dade district recently launched an initiative to bring fresh vegetables from a farm in Collier County directly to school cafeterias.

And starting next month, 26 Miami-Dade schools will house fresh fruit and vegetable vending machines, said Penny Parham, director of food and nutritional services.

In Broward, school administrators have banned cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies from school cafeterias. Four schools have a fresh fruit and vegetable project, said Barbara Leslie, who directs the food and nutrition services department.