Former first daughter Barbara Bush recently shared her mission to bring better nutrition to American children and low income communities around the world in an interview with U.S. News, where she spoke about one of the most serious health issues to face the nation: hidden hunger and obesity, which she says are both symptoms of the same problem — malnutrition.
What Barbara Bush terms as “hidden hunger” occurs when people, most often children, are taking in large quantities of high calorie food but are not getting any nutrients into their body. This causes major health problems, poor concentration, and bad performance in school and leads to obesity, diabetes, and the nation’s number one killer, heart disease. As far as the human body is concerned, there is a huge amount of difference between a 600 calorie cheeseburger and a 600 calorie salad but most Americans are not taught these differences and tend to place a higher emphasis on calories and not enough on actual nutrition.
Barbara Bush founded Global Health Corps in 2009 to tackle these problems at home and abroad.
“When people hear ‘global public health’ they think this refers to problems of another country, continent, people. But there are issues here in the U.S.”
One of the key areas in the United States that Barbara Bush wants to address is the lack of sources for healthy, whole food choices for low income families and especially those living in urban environments where there is no easy access to grocery stores or farmers’ markets that carry healthy food options and fresh produce. This is especially a concern for pregnant women and young children because nutrition in the developing years is so vital to the overall health and mental well being of a child and sadly, over half of American children are suffering from some form of malnutrition.
“It’s a pretty devastating thing to realize that the first years of a child’s life can impact them so completely.”
The problem of nutrition, and the lack thereof, has been a major focus not only for Barbara Bush but also for first lady Michelle Obama, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and Pope Francis, who recently addressed the issue at an international conference on nutrition just last month.
While some have suggested that forgoing the traditional route that dietitians have taken with school lunches and nutritional recommendations and opting instead for the advice of nutritionists who support more of a whole foods and plant based approach could dramatically improve the health care situation. But one thing that most experts are clear on is that education could be a key part of the solution for current children, their families, and their communities.
“If you can reach kids, you can usually reach their parents and their entire families,” and that is exactly what Barbara Bush hopes to do with her global nutrition initiatives.