At a school in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, former President Bill Clinton and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee today joined with the American Heart Association to announce a new, 10-year effort aimed at reducing childhood obesity.
Citing statistics that an estimated 16 percent of U.S. children are obese, they said they would work to develop programs aimed at encouraging healthier choices about diet and exercise.
The two said personal experience helped spur their advocacy. In September, Clinton underwent a quadruple coronary artery bypass, the result of high cholesterol and a poor diet. Huckabee said he lost more than 100 pounds after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Clinton has previously devoted his time to fighting AIDS in the developing world, and earlier this year, he joined former President George H.W. Bush to press for relief for victims of the Asian tsunami.
Clinton spoke to ABC News' Kate Snow about his latest initiative. The following is an excerpt of the interview:
KATE SNOW:You're working on tsunami relief. You just launched another initiative on HIV/AIDS. I wonder why take on childhood obesity and add that to the mix?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: After I had my heart problem, I really felt that I ought to do something in this area because the coronary related disease is still the number one killer in America. And because my problem directly resulted from high cholesterol, clogging of the arteries, and poor eating habits over a long period of time. Also, I am really worried about the rate of childhood obesity in America. It means that we are going to have all kinds of kids with premature diabetes and all the associated health problems. ... More Americans are eating out. More Americans are eating at fast-food places. The fat content and the sugar content of what's on their menus both when they eat out and unfortunately in a lot of school lunch programs.
SNOW: So you are going to take on the restaurants? (Overlapping)
CLINTON: ... And the vending machines is much higher [fat content]. So one of the things we have to do is educate their parents but also, not take them on, ask these people [food industry] to help. They can make a lot of money by moving to healthier foods.