19 Jan HALO Agenda for the First 100 Days: A 10 Point Action Plan
At noon on Wednesday, January 20th EST, the world witnessed the 68th inauguration of an American President.
It was, as it always is – no matter the political climate of the day – a moment to recognize and celebrate the enduring vitality of the planet’s longest running constitutional democracy. It was not likely followed, however, by a comfortable afternoon of leisure behind the Resolute Desk, as President Biden immediately inherited the anxieties of a country whose present challenges threaten to overshadow the beacon of the grand American experiment.
A pandemic rages. The economy stumbles and staggers toward recovery. Divisiveness stretches our cultural fabric. And, of course, among the morass of issues piling high on our national consciousness, is the creeping realization that our collective health – physical and mental – has never been worse.
We are eating too much and moving too little. We are depressed, stressed, and both physically and emotionally isolated from people we care about. Many of us are painfully lonely. As a result, preventable chronic diseases, like obesity and diabetes, are metastasizing across the land and the physiological consequences of sedentary behavior are taking root.
To be clear: The state of our union is unhealthy. It is not, however, without hope, especially if strong allies are willing to unite around a Health, Active Lifestyle & Outdoor (“HALO”) movement. First, there is always hope when the strength of American determination matters to an outcome. History is clear and unequivocal on that point.
Second, the HALO Sector – including health clubs, studios, and the hundreds of thousands of professionals driving them forward – is exploding with ingenuity. Of course, much of the HALO sector has been economically ravaged by the pandemic, but the inventiveness of the sector has only accelerated during the struggle. What’s emerging is an elegant mix of tech, data and behavior change theory that is poised to push back, forcibly, against the malignant culture of inactivity and sedentary behavior. But getting healthy doesn’t need to be as monumentally hard as it has become.
The Biden Administration, with help from the 117th Congress, can take meaningful action in the first 100 days to support the transformational inventiveness of the HALO Sector and work toward building a culture where healthy movement and physical activity are prioritized, accessible and enjoyable for all. What are those actions? Well, we have some ideas. . .
Let’s call it “A HALO Agenda for the First 100 Days.”
- Create a fund that would provide economic relief to HALO businesses impacted by COVID-19 (e.g. the Health & Fitness Recovery Act introduced last year). The toll on the fitness industry has been unfathomably catastrophic: 500,000 jobs and $16 billion…lost since March 2020. This bill would help good, compassionate, hardworking folks who did nothing to deserve the pain they’ve experienced for the past 10 months.
- Enact legislation like The PHIT Act, which would allow Americans to pay for physical activity expenses – such as gym memberships and digital purchases – using flexible spending accounts. This is a popular, bipartisan idea. It’s time to get it done. \
- Pass the Physical Activity Recommendations for Americans Act, which would ensure that the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans – the world’s most thorough review and analysis of exercise science – is updated at least every 10 years.
- Fully fund the Active People, Healthy Nation initiative developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027.
- Create an inter-agency federal task force to advance a coordinated domestic policy agenda for physical activity throughout the executive branch, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Transportation, Education, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Interior; and the independent Environmental Protection Agency.
- Invest in nationwide infrastructure developments that prioritize activity-friendly routes – such as sidewalks, trails, bicycle lanes, and public transit – to “everyday destinations,” including grocery stores, schools, worksites, libraries, parks, fitness facilities and health care facilities.
- Offer grants and other funding to state and local education authorities to increase access to physical activity opportunities for youth of all skill levels, including physical education, safe routes to and from school, after school programs, recess, classroom-based physical activity, and youth sports.
- Incentivize a full slate of physical activity-based health care practices, including the measurement of exercise as a vital sign, referrals to well-qualified exercise professionals and health coaches, medicare coverage and insurance payment determinations for non-physician providers and community-based behavior change programs, and increased utilization of digital health technology.
- Increase access to places for physical activity – indoors and outdoors – in national parks and on federally-owned lands.
- Align the physical activity research agenda of the various federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Education among others.
So, there it is. A ten-point HALO Agenda for the first 100 days. Is it an exhaustive list? Certainly not. What are we missing? We’d love to hear from you and we encourage you to join us and our HALO Sector allies (such as the National Health and Fitness Alliance and Physical Activity Alliance) to advocate strongly for a physical activity-based policy agenda.
In the meantime, we at Integrity Square will remain unwavering in our belief that the best and healthiest days of our Nation are still ahead; and that there is no greater force than the determination of the American people. And we will hold fast to the time-tested wisdom of the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, who counseled us all to, “Never bet against America.”
-Tom Richards is Founder of The Activist in Motion & the Chief Political Architect at Integrity Square