Public Policy 101 – The Annual Summit for a Healthier America

As much as I enjoy working one-on-one with people to improve the quality of their lives, I know that’s not the way our country is going to truly address and solve the problem of our poor health.  The only way we can make a major impact on a large-scale is through the implementation of public policy that supports disease prevention and promotes well-being.  From the Farm Bill to Senate Resolution 97, we have to demand more from our law makers.  We as professionals and constituents are obligated to bring these issues to our representatives and insist that action is taken.

Educating other professionals about this topic is sometimes met with confusion. They don’t completely understand what public policy has to do with them and their work.  Once I give them examples – the light bulb goes off.  Seat belt policy is always my go-to case.  Public policy was implemented making it a requirement to wear a seat belt and the impact on reducing motor vehicle deaths has reduced mortality significantly.  It was only recently that my state passed the Smoke Free Air Law in order to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.

It’s hard to believe there was a time that these things didn’t exist and implementing these policies didn’t happen over night.  It took the effort of concerned professionals to provide the facts.  And, as overwhelming as the state of our nation’s health may seem, we already have some of the answers.  It’s now a matter of putting policy in place to get things done.  It’s our job to make it happen.  In the words of Margaret Meade, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

I commend the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) for being a leader in regard to this issue.  They are a trade association serving the health and fitness industry and are hosting their 11th Annual Summit for a Healthier America on May 14th & 15th 2013 in WashingtonD.C.    Attending this event will allow you to:

  • Be present at the start of a powerful grassroots movement which aims to save lives, encourage increased individual responsibility, increase worker productivity, and lower spiraling health care costs.
  • Bring our message and vision to legislators about the vital solution YOU provide for one the greatest problems facing the country.
  • Allow professionals to come together to explore the opportunities for your club, your community and the country as we present the fitness industry as part of a broad community dedicated to healthy lifestyles and primary prevention.

Here are some examples of  necessary legislation changes, taken from IHRSA’s website, related to health promotion, disease prevention, wellness, and physical activity.

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act: The PHIT Act allows for expenditures for physical fitness programs and exercise equipment to be payable out of certain pre-tax health investment accounts. Consumers with these spending and savings accounts can currently pay for prescription drugs and doctor visits with pre-tax dollars. This would be a positive step towards covering the costs of preventative measures as well.

The PEP Act: PEP is a competitive grant program managed by the U.S. Department of Education.  PEP grants are awarded to schools and community based organizations that provide quality physical education/physical activity programs for America’s youth. This funding is a top priority in order to provide quality physical education through schools and community based organizations.

Fit Kids Act: The Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act) supports quality physical education and activity for all public school children through grade 12 and ensures they receive important health and nutritional information.

The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act: The goal of the WHIP Act is to create a benefits system that offers the same benefit to employees who go to a fitness club as to those that work out at their office gym. The WHIP Act recognizes the important role fitness facilities play and will help increase memberships by eliminating tax and paperwork burdens.

Updated June 18: Read this Wall Street Journal Article covering the Summit.

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