Our Black History Month Heroes: Dr. David Satcher and Michelle Obama
by Latrie Marshall, Prospect Researcher
We’re celebrating Black History Month by saluting leaders who champion the health of children. We wouldn’t be where we are as an organization if it weren’t for Dr. David Satcher, Founding Director of Action for Healthy Kids and former first lady Michelle Obama, who launched Let’s Move! Active Schools, an output of the May 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, as a key element of her platform.
Dr. David Satcher
There is one childhood story that Dr. David Satcher will never forget. At the age of two, Dr. Satcher wasn’t expected to live after contracting whooping cough in his hometown of Anniston, Alabama. Dr. Fred Jackson, the only African American doctor in town, treated Dr. Satcher and instructed his parents on methods to increase his chances of survival. Dr. Satcher lived and grew up hearing the story of his survival and Dr. Jackson almost daily. By the age of six, Dr. Satcher deemed he would become a doctor. Dr. Satcher became a physician, the 16th U.S. Surgeon General, and the Founding Chair of Action for Healthy Kids. His leadership and direction on the 2001 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity resulted in AFHK’s conception to ensure schools, families and communities work together to improve the health of children. Through his leadership, community engagement, research, publications and roles at various institutions, Dr. Satcher continues to resist health disparities and champion health equity for children and racial and ethnic minorities in order to improve health outcomes.
Before Michelle Obama was planting vegetables in a garden and jumping Double Dutch with children on the South Lawn of the White House as the first African American First Lady, she held several positions in her hometown of Chicago, from attorney to Vice President for Community and External Affairs at University of Chicago Hospitals. Michelle’s love for education, children and fun began in childhood – she excelled academically, enjoyed being around younger children (which led to her telling everyone she wanted to be a pediatrician), and appreciated playing tag, riding bikes and attending dance classes in jazz and acrobatics in her South Shore neighborhood. When Michelle began her own family, she realized some of the difficulties being a working mother could have on her children’s health, specifically when Barack was campaigning for the presidency. At a well-child visit for her daughter, Michelle learned that Malia’s body mass index was escalating, which increased her chances for high blood pressure and type 1 diabetes. Michelle recognized that cooking less at home and eating out more had become convenient for her family while she campaigned with Barack and maintained her job. To get her family back on track, Michelle sought out Sam Kass, a chef, to prepare healthy meals a couple times throughout the week while she continued to work and campaign with her husband. Although the votes had not been cast for the presidential election, Michelle and Sam began to brainstorm about her impact as First Lady. She chose to focus her platform on a whole child health initiative. Michelle’s vision came to fruition in 2010 when she announced Let’s Move! – an initiative to end childhood obesity and encourage children to lead a healthy lifestyle. In 2013, Let’s Move! Active Schools launched to improve physical education and activity in schools. Under a new administration, the work continues as Active Schools, a collective impact movement helping schools provide students with equitable access to 60 minutes of physical activity and play every day and ultimately revolutionizing how schools incorporate activity into student learning. After spending eight years in the White House, Michelle continues to be a strong and engaging leader and voice for healthier schools and choices for children.
Source: Obama, Michelle. Becoming. New York: Crown, 2018.