First lady Michelle Obama, along with her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters Malia and Sasha leave Monday on a week-long trip to the United Kingdom and Italy.
The trip includes a stop in London, where the first lady will meet students from the Mulberry School for Girls and discuss the Let Girls Learn program, which previously took Obama to Japan and Cambodia. The initiative aims to give more girls around the world the ability to attend and complete school.
“Having the first lady as a supporter and a driver on our efforts on girls education has already led to a raised awareness,” particularly in areas that don’t have a strong history of giving girls the same educational opportunities as boys, said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “When Michelle Obama raises these issues, she gets attention.”
While in London, Obama will meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, as well as Prince Harry. The meeting will be focused on Let Girls Learn as well as supporting military families, according to Tina Tchen, the first lady’s chief of staff.
After London, the first lady will travel to Milan and lead a presidential delegation to the Milan Expo 2015. The expo, which opened May 1 and runs until Oct. 31, focuses on producing healthy, sustainable food.
The delegation includes:
– Former Miami Heat basketball player Alonzo Mourning, a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
– Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power, a nonprofit group that teaches people how to grow their own food.
– Chef, writer and restaurateur Mario Batali and Carla Hall, co-hosts of “The Chew,” a daytime television show on cooking and food.
– Nicolas Jammet, co-CEO of sweetgreen, a health food restaurant chain.
The USA pavilion, which the delegation will tour, focuses in part on proper nutrition and healthy eating.
“Globally the presence of obesity has doubled since 1980,” Tchen said. “The first lady knows that raising healthy families isn’t just a challenge in the U.S., but around the world.”
The first lady also will meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and tour the Italy pavilion with Italian first lady Agnese Landini.
On the last leg of her visit, she will meet military members and their families stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, about 37 miles west of Venice, before returning to Washington.
As part of her trip to Italy, the first lady will talk about healthy eating practices and attend a cooking demonstration with Italian children. Although Italy has one of the lowest obesity rates in Europe, around 10 percent, it has the highest childhood obesity rate on the continent, about 35 percent, according to a 2014 study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. This is slightly higher than the American childhood obesity rate, about 30 percent.
The United Kingdom is facing its own obesity troubles. University of Birmingham Obesity Research Center data shows more than 20 percent of the British population is obese – the highest rate in Europe. Obesity rates are even higher among British children. About 33 percent of British children were obese, according to 2007 statistics. That number is expected to double by 2050.
The British National Health Service says it spends over $7.8 billion annually on health care issues related to being overweight or obese. The annual estimated cost of obesity-related health problems in the United States was $147 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.