Mary Altaffer  /  AP
'We want to reverse the growth in childhood obesity,' Clinton told students and teachers at a Harlem school Tuesday.
updated 5/3/2005 3:21:13 PM ET 2005-05-03T19:21:13

Former President Clinton announced Tuesday the launch of a 10-year initiative to combat childhood obesity, saying “we’ve got to change the eating habits of America’s young people.”

Joined by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has also battled a weight problem, Clinton said he became concerned in the subject after undergoing heart bypass surgery last year.

“The truth is that children are consuming more sugar and fatty foods than ever before. We want to reverse the growth in childhood obesity,” Clinton told students and teachers at a Harlem school.

“We’re going to give this our best shot because we want all these children to live to be 90 years old and to be healthy doing it.”

Huckabee, 49, who once weighed more than 280 pounds and lost 105 pounds in one year, said he was jolted into changing his eating habits after his doctor told him: “If you don’t change your lifestyle, you’re in the last decade of your life.”

“I realized I was digging my own grave with a knife and fork,” he said. Now, Huckabee said, he is no longer diabetic.

Glancing at Clinton, himself a former Arkansas governor, the Republican Huckabee joked: “I’m going to outlive all the Democrats.” Then he added: “This is so not a political issue. This is about people and their health.”

Robert Eckel, president-elect of the American Heart Association, which is supporting the initiative with the William J. Clinton Foundation, said the rate of obesity doubled in children and tripled in teens in the last 25 years.

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