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Fact Sheet: President Bush Launches Healthier US Initiative

June 20, 2002

Today's Presidential Action

President Bush today launched a new HealthierUS initiative to help Americans live longer, better and healthier lives. The HealthierUS initiative will encourage all Americans to:

  • Be physically active every day;
  • Eat a nutritious diet;
  • Get preventive screenings; and
  • Make healthy choices.

A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services confirms that "virtually all individuals can benefit from regular physical activity." Unfortunately, the HHS study found that Americans pay a staggering physical and financial cost for sedentary lifestyles, including an estimated $117 billion annually in problems associated with overweight and obesity alone. The study also found that more than a third of children in grades 9-12 fail to exercise at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week.

The President's HealthierUS initiative is designed to help Americans of all ages take steps to improve their personal health and fitness. As part of the initiative, the President announced two new Executive Orders that reinvigorate the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and direct key federal departments and agencies to develop plans to better promote fitness and health for all Americans.

The President also introduced the new members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, including Chair Lynn Swann and Vice Chair Dot Richardson. The Council will be charged with promoting fitness and athletic activities to Americans of all ages.

Background on Today's Presidential Action

Nearly half of American adults report that they do not exercise at all, and seven out of 10 do so infrequently. Too many of America's youth do not exercise at all, are overweight, and have poor dietary habits. Five chronic diseases associated with obesity -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g., bronchitis, emphysema, asthma), and diabetes -- account for more than two-thirds of all deaths in the United States. In addition to claiming more than 1.7 million American lives each year, these diseases hinder daily living for more than one of every 10 Americans, or 25 million people. More than 100 million Americans live with chronic disease, and millions of new cases are diagnosed each year.

Effective measures exist today to prevent or delay much of the chronic disease burden and curtail its devastating consequences. Families can take simple, affordable steps to work physical activity, good nutrition, and behavioral changes into their daily routine.

President Bush's HealthierUS Initiative is based on the premise that increasing personal fitness and becoming healthier is critical to achieving a better and longer life. Extensive research has shown that making small adjustments and improvements in the activities of daily life can improve overall health and prevent disease and premature death. The President's HealthierUS Initiative uses the resources of the Federal Government to alert Americans to the vital health benefits of simple and modest improvements in physical activity, nutrition, and behavior.

People of all ages can benefit from these actions. For the nation's seniors, poor health should not be a foregone consequence of aging. Improvements in diet and physical activity can greatly improve the quality of life at any age. Regular physical activity also helps older Americans maintain joint strength and mobility and substantially delays the onset of functional limitations and loss of independence.

Today, President Bush announced two immediate steps to promote fitness:

  • Revitalizing the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. An important step in communicating the Administration's message on fitness and health is the revitalization of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Football legend Lynn Swann will chair the council, and Olympic softball gold medalist and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dot Richardson will serve as vice chair. The other members of the Council include professional athletes and trainers, U.S. Olympians, physicians and leading private sector experts. The Council will coordinate its activities with Federal, state, and private entities to serve communities across the country more effectively.
  • Developing Agency-Wide Activities to Promote Personal Fitness. The President signed an Executive Order that directs certain Federal agencies to review all policies, programs, and regulations related to physical activity, nutrition, screenings, and making healthy choices. The agencies will propose revisions, modifications, or new actions to further improve the promotion of personal fitness, and forward the recommendations to the President within 90 days.

The President also announced that the Administration has identified four keys for a healthier America and is taking the following actions to promote them:

  • Be Physically Active Every Day. Many chronic diseases can be prevented with modest exercise, in some cases as simple as walking for half an hour. For example, if just 10% of adults began walking regularly, America could save $5.6 billion in costs related to heart disease. There are countless opportunities for physical activity that do not need to be strenuous or very time-consuming to be beneficial. Administration actions to promote physical activity include:
  • Declaring a Fee-Free Weekend in America's National Parks and Federal Lands
  • Creating a Web Site to Provide a Central Link to Government Fitness Resources
  • Promoting the Use of Public Lands and Water
  • Highlighting the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
  • Eat a Nutritious Diet. Americans should make simple adjustments to their diet and avoid excessive portions. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is a central part of a healthier diet, and good overall nutrition lowers the risk of getting heart disease, stroke, cancer, and osteoporosis. Administration actions to promote better nutrition include:
  • Enhancing the National 5 A Day for Better Health Program
  • Promoting Nutrition Curriculum and Education in Our Schools
  • Supporting the Eat Smart-Play Hard Campaign
  • Get Preventive Screenings. Americans may be surprised to learn how a simple test like a cholesterol screen or a blood pressure check can reveal current health status and identify a need to adjust diet or behavior. Administration actions to promote preventive medicine include:
  • Creating the Healthy Communities Innovation Initiative
  • Raising Awareness of Diabetes Screening, Especially for Women
  • Strengthening and Improving Medicare
  • Make Healthy Choices. Avoid tobacco and drugs and the abuse of alcohol and make smart and safe choices in your everyday life. Administration actions to promote healthy choices include:
  • Creating a CDC Tobacco Control Toolkit
  • Highlighting the Drug Free Communities Support Program
  • Promoting Bicycle Safety Initiatives

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: President Bush Launches Healthier US Initiative Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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