Person of the Week: Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama POW

Whether she's turning heads with her latest fashions, being mom in chief to her two young daughters, or even training a very playful puppy, by all measures, first lady Michelle Obama has had a busy first year in the White House.

"We've gotten a lot done," she told a group of print reporters last week, listing moments like her work with military families and her youth mentoring program, as being part of the year's accomplishments.

Watch tonight's Person of the Week on World News with Diane Sawyer. Check your local listings.

VIDEO: Health Care Costs Rise With Obesity Rate
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But the issue she has become the most passionate about is ending childhood obesity.

"The statistics never fail to take my breath away," the first lady said Wednesday, while addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington. "Right now, nearly one-third of children in America are overweight or obese -- one in three. And one-third of all children today will eventually suffer from diabetes -- in the African-American and Latino communities, it goes up to almost half."

Those statistics Obama refers to are the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a CDC study, in the last 30 years, obesity rates in teenagers have tripled. One in five American children has high cholesterol. And it is estimated that the U.S. will spend nearly $350 billion on obesity-related health problems by 2018.

"Obesity could now be an even greater threat to America's health than smoking," Obama said at the mayoral conference. "In fact, medical experts are predicting that this generation is on track to have a shorter lifespan than their parents."

Leading by Example

So how does Michelle Obama plan to make those statistics a bad memory? By announcing a wide-ranging four-point initiative to combat childhood obesity.

"That includes increasing the number of 'healthy schools' where kids have access to nutritious food; providing more opportunities for kids to be physically active; ensuring that affordable healthy food is available in more communities; and giving parents the information they need to make good choices for themselves and their families," she told the mayors on Wednesday.

Access to a healthy lifestyle and diet has been an issue the first lady has championed since her first days in the White House. "My hope," she said in an interview with the New York Times, "is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities."

Person of the Week: Michelle Obama

Inaugurating the White House kitchen garden was the first step in starting to get the public, especially children, talking about eating healthy food, she says.

Obama hosted the popular TV cooking competition "Iron Chef" at the White House, urging the famous chefs to use a distinct secret ingredient.

"Welcome to the White House. Your secret ingredient is... anything from the White House garden!"

Those chefs, including Mario Batali and Bobby Flay, managed to get vegetables into everything -- from ravioli to desserts -- including using carrots in beignets.

Obama has cooked with children in the White House kitchen and hula-hooped and jump-roped in the Rose Garden, to promote a fit and active lifestyle.

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