Michelle Obama picks pediatrician to lead her anti-obesity campaign for children

A leading pediatrician is taking over as executive director of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign against childhood obesity, the White House announced Friday.

Judith Palfrey is a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the nation's largest pediatric organization. She'll be taking leave from her post as director of the Children's International Pediatric Center at Children's Hospital in Boston during her stint with the first lady.

"It was my children's pediatrician who first told me that I needed to pay closer attention to my children's health so I understand the significance doctors play in family health," Obama said in a statement. "That's why we are eager to welcome Judy Palfrey to the White House where I know that she will take the Let’s Move! program to new heights."

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Palfrey takes over from Robin Schepper, who resigned in May after less than a year on the job to go work for the Bipartisan Policy Center's Nutrition Initiative. At the time, the first lady's office said in a statement that Schepper's new position would "allow more family balance" for the Democratic communications strategist.

The initiative has been attacked by some on the right — most notably former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — who say the first lady is trying to create a nanny-state culture that seeks to ban French fries and other unhealthy foods. 

Some nutritionists, meanwhile, worry that focusing on body weight could inadvertently stigmatize overweight children.

"Let's Move!" is a comprehensive initiative focused on five pillars:

• Creating a healthy start for children;

• Empowering parents and caregivers; 

• Providing healthy food in schools;

• Improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and

• Increasing physical activity.