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Philately and childhood obesity: Things I never thought I’d see together in a headline

Philately and childhood obesity: Things I never thought I’d see together in a headline

Picture of Jill  Braden Balderas
Image courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

Here at Center for Health Journalism Digital, our bloggers and fellows have covered the U.S. childhood obesity epidemic from all sides. We’ve looked into national trends like First Lady Michelle Obama’s or the and reported from the states, like Colorado’s or West Virgina’s .

Never would I have thought that we’d venture into the world of philately’s relation to children’s health. But when I saw this headline on Facebook -- – I couldn’t resist clicking on it. Could it possibly be that the activities featured on the stamps were that dangerous?

According to the PostalMag.com's Postal News Blog I originally found on Facebook, “… Linns Stamp News [reported that] the USPS will be destroying the entire press run after receiving concerns from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports &


Image courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

Nutrition over alleged ‘unsafe’ acts depicted on three of the stamps (cannonball dive, skateboarding without kneepads and a headstand without a helmet).”

I just had to know more and started with how the U.S. Postal Service described the Just Move! (not to be confused with Obama’s campaign) stamps when they released the designs earlier this year. This is from :

With this Just Move! stamp, the USPS hopes to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity in achieving a healthy lifestyle. Each stamp features an illustration of a different child engaged in one of 15 activities, in addition to a short phrase or descriptive word in white text and an action verb in dark blue text.  

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children and adolescents should engage in at least one hour of aerobic physical activity daily. Parents and caregivers also benefit from several hours of aerobic physical activity per week. No matter what your age, it's never too late to get out and move. It can help control weight; reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers, and stroke; lessen stress; strengthen bones and muscles; and improve mental health. 

Next, I tried to find the and discovered it is only available to subscribers. But because the subject matter makes for great fodder among those watching for government waste or out to criticize overly cautious policymakers, others in the blogosphere ran with the information.

Radio talk show host called the move an example of “Generation Cupcake.” Posts from , and even a website dedicated to the (Warning: salty language) also jumped into the fray. A shed a bit more light on the subject:

The unsafe depictions came to light after USPS Marketing chief Nagisa Manabe asked Michelle Obama to take part in a first day ceremony for the stamps. That was apparently the first time the stamps had been reviewed by the Sports Council.

Finally, I thought it best to go straight to the source and ed the U.S. Postal Service. USPS spokesperson called me back within the hour.

The USPS representative confirmed that it was two White House programs – the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and Let’s Move! – that put the kibosh on the stamps for now. I write “for now,” because the spokesperson explained that instead of the stamps being destroyed, they are “on hold” at the printer. The stamps never made it from the printer to a post office or for sale online and will not be dispersed or destroyed until a final decision is made. The spokesperson said that there was no timeline for making that decision and no estimate for how much the Just Move! stamps cost the U.S. Postal Service to develop and produce or how much more it would have to pay to destroy them.

Most children rarely mail a letter these days, so whether or not stamps would inadvertently encourage them to forego kneepads and helmets or jump into the pool cannonball-style seems highly unlikely. But more importantly, I wonder whether the whole campaign is misconceived – with or without protective gear? Can stamps encourage any type of behavior change in youth? I’d say it’s as much on their radar screens as having to get up off the sofa to change the TV channel, like I did in the age before remote controls.

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