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First Lady Joins Department of Human Services and Community Partners in Launching VI Let's Move
Posted by Julia Watthey on March 6, 2012 at 5:15 PM AST

On Tuesday, First Lady Cecile de Jongh joined the Department of Human Services’ Office of Childcare and Regulatory Services and community partners in launching the VI chapter of the national Let’s Move initiative, a program developed by First Lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity through education and advocacy. The launch was held at the Head Start facility in Sugar Estate on St. Thomas.

First Lady Cecile de Jongh delivers remarks at the launch of the VI Let's Move campaign at the Head Start facility in Sugar Estate on St. Thomas, March 6, 2012

“We are excited about kicking off the local campaign, focusing on health and wellness as an important part of daily life. Starting from the early years and on through adulthood, proper nutrition, exercise and good mental health are the keys to leading a healthy, balanced life, “ she said.

The first lady pointed out that 60% of American adults and 20% of children ages 2-5 are considered overweight.

She added, “In the past thirty years, obesity rates amongst Virgin Islands children have tripled. Today about one in every three children is overweight, an alarming number. The Let’s Move initiative addresses these issues, including lifestyle habits, and acknowledges the reality that patients who are presenting symptoms for diabetes and hypertension are getting younger and younger.”

As chairperson of the Children and Families Council, Mrs. de Jongh has been proactive in guiding the Council and community partners to promote health and wellness for all ages, especially amongst youth, as an important part of leading a balanced and fulfilling life.

“This effort fits in perfectly with the administration’s wellness efforts to help all children start school happy, healthy and prepared to learn.”

First Lady de Jongh listens to a presentation about children's wellness during the launch of the VI Let's Move campaign on March 6, 2012. Human Services Assistant Commissioner Michal Rhymer-Charles is to the left of the first lady; OCCRS Administrator Olga Santos is to the far left.

Let’s Move supports the implementation of the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) by emphasizing quality childcare standards in the areas of professional development and leadership; curriculum and learning; and family engagement. The effort assists with the enforcement of the new Rules and Regulations for childcare centers, including increased quality standards for programs and activities, food service, and nutrition.

The VI initiative partners childcare providers and government to put children on a path to a healthy future from infancy through their childhood and adult years, with the expectation of a healthier generation leading a healthier community.

Let’s Move empowers parents through education on the latest research and trends in nutrition, physical activity and digital technologies to foster home and school environments that promote healthy lifestyle choices. “It’s all about balance,” the first lady said, noting, “It’s important for children to be knowledgeable about computer systems and electronics, but it’s equally important to spend time in recreation and physical exercise, such as team sports.”

She added, “Being healthier leads to feeling more confident and self-assured, which leads to academic achievement, better classroom behavior and better concentration.”

At the close of her remarks on Tuesday, the first lady thanked providers “for their commitment to children,” and noted, “I look forward to continuing to move the needle forward in increasing standards of childhood care and as part of a comprehensive approach to bettering school readiness and ensuring that all Virgin Islands children are healthy and engaged in thinking about a bright future.”

A companion event is scheduled for St. Croix on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at the Office of the Governor Arthur Abel Complex Meeting Room from 9:00-11:30am.

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