EXCLUSIVE: A Message from First Lady Michelle Obama

I want to share with you a personal story in the hopes that it encourages you to get the most out of your doctor visits for your children. 

A few years ago as a working mom, I had the best intentions to feed my kids healthy food on a budget, knowing that sometimes pizza or the drive thru were inevitable.  But I was surprised when my pediatrician pulled me aside during an annual well-child visit and told me we needed to start paying better attention to what we were feeding our girls. 

They were younger at the time.  They were active and growing, with a healthy sense of themselves, which Barack and I have always encouraged.  But our doctor told me that their BMIs were creeping upwards.  Now to be honest, I didn’t really know what BMI was. And I certainly didn’t know that even a small increase in BMI can have serious consequences for a child’s health. So I’m grateful my pediatrician was there to help.

He explained that BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a way of gauging whether or not your child is within a healthy weight range for his or her height, age and growth pattern.  A percentage too low may indicate hunger and poor nutrition, and a percentage too high can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other health issues.  In the Hispanic community, nearly two in five children are overweight or obese.  And this isn’t just teenagers or school-age kids we’re talking about.  Believe it or not, the obesity rate among Hispanic preschoolers is higher than their white or African American peers. 

I was fortunate that our pediatrician was paying attention to the trends of childhood obesity, because I never would have known to ask for a screening on my own.

This information is now within reach for you and your family too – you just have to ask for it. Last year, my husband signed the Affordable Care Act, which required new insurance plans to cover preventive services like BMI screenings without any kind of deductible, co-pay or co-insurance. So today, most of you can get your child’s BMI screened without paying a penny out of pocket.

As parents, you will also benefit from the new law. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, cervical screenings and treatment for high blood pressure are available in new plans without any out of pocket costs. We know that these kinds of preventive services will go a long way in preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and high-blood pressure, which touch the lives of millions of Americans. These diseases also consume over 75 percent of the health care spending in our country. Increasing access to preventive care will keep us all healthier and save money.

And by making it easier for women to get mammograms, the Affordable Care Act will help women with breast cancer catch the disease in the early stages. We know that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. The Affordable Care Act will help prolong women’s lives while we search for a cure. 

So I encourage you to talk to your child’s pediatrician and your doctor.  Ask for a BMI screening so that you can catch any problems early on. Make sure you’re getting the care you need to stay healthy yourself and stop health problems before they become emergencies.  Together we’ll all stay healthier and raise a generation of happy, healthy kids.