Australia needs a Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama visits a middle school in the US and encourages the students to get active by dancing.

Michelle Obama visits a middle school in the US and encourages the students to get active by dancing. Photo: Getty

I am developing a serious girl crush on Michelle Obama. As Washington's first lady and as a mother of two children, she has been perfectly positioned to get herself heard about social issues. And in one of the world's fattest countries, she chose to tackle childhood obesity.

She didn't have to do anything about it, but she did. She had an opportunity to be a strong voice in the community and make a difference - and she grabbed it with both hands. Now that's the kind of chick that impresses me.

In 2010, a staggering 18 per cent of six- to 19-year-old Americans were obese. Not overweight - obese. (By contrast, 8 per cent of Aussie kids were obese in 2010.)

Michelle Obama introduced her "Let's Move" campaign in 2010 to get kids active and eating better, and along with the MyPlate family-focused healthy recipe and exercise initiative, it's starting to have an effect. Childhood obesity rates have fallen by


3 to 5.5 per cent across the US over the past three years, and by a gobsmacking 13 per cent in Mississippi. As she puts it, "We've changed the conversation in this country."

Bang. There it is in one sentence. In the US's intensely political atmosphere, Obama has copped criticism, yet pushed through to improve the health of the nation's children.

The truth is, we could do with a Michelle Obama here to make us get serious about the issue because, frankly, we aren't. We're actually reducing funding for our anti-obesity programs, with the Australian National Preventive Health Agency facing cuts to its healthy lifestyle campaigns next financial year.

It's nuts. Our obesity rates continue to climb and the agency responsible for preventative health initiatives cops a pay cut. Hmmm ... talk me through that.

In my experience, most media types and pollies don't take obesity seriously. I often listen to naughty sniggers from radio interviewers when they tell me on air how much junk food they eat, or how they haven't exercised since they were toilet-trained. People eat chocolate bars in front of me with great flourish, moaning orgasmically. Worryingly, they're adults, often in senior and influential roles.

It doesn't bother me at a personal level, but as a nation, isn't it time we got fair dinkum?

Michelle's tip
Start healthy initiatives with your family; email Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and ask why she's reducing preventative health funding.