While most of the country and the world adjusts to the changing policies of a new administration, the fitness industry is hoping to keep things moving along in finding ways to ensure Americans stay active and healthy, especially for a fast growing health, fitness and tech business that continues to boom even with obesity still a major issue. One of the key pieces of news that is pending, and can help the fitness industry grow in a positive manner, is The PHIT Act.
The PHIT Act is legislation pending in Congress which will allow Americans to use Pre-Tax Medical Accounts to pay for physical activity expenses. The PHIT Act will provide an incentive for adults and their children to get fit which will help prevent healthcare costs related to preventable chronic diseases.
We wanted to find out more about the efforts, so we asked Bill Sells, Senior Vice President Government Relations & Public Affairs, Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) to fill us in:
Michelle Obama was a big driver behind “Lets Move,” which was key in raising awareness for Americans, especially young people. How do you see that changing or growing with a new President?
We believe that awareness of the obesity and sedentary lifestyle pandemics won’t go away under the new administration. Michelle Obama did a great job of putting the topic on the national radar, and it should remain a national issue. We should see a greater focus—in terms of healthcare reform—on prevention rather than treatment, which is something both Republicans and Democrats have been pushing for, and will help tackle these issues.
Any worries that the changes in healthcare will impact initiatives like the PHIT Act?
The PHIT Act is pro-health, and encourages healthy behavior. As such, PHIT is consistent with the direction we’re going in healthcare, which is to prevent disease rather than to simply treat it once it’s brought on.
How will brands be involved in the initiatives? Who has stepped up and how?
The sports and fitness industry recognizes that sedentary lifestyles are a major contributor to healthcare costs and the current poor health of millions of Americans. We as an industry are committed to reversing this, and we’re fortunate enough to have numerous members who are fully supportive of the PHIT Act. We’re also thrilled to have fantastic partners including ACTIVE Network, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Didgebridge, Midtown Athletic Clubs, National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), Sears, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA). So that just shows the breadth of support we have across the sport, health, and fitness industries.
Is there a specific demo that you are trying to reach? Some better than others?
Because the dangers of sedentary lifestyles apply to all of us, we have crafted the PHIT Act to help every man, woman, and child in America. With that said, there are several harrowing statistics showing that America ranks first in children who are overweight or obese. Over 35percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 fall in that category. And, for the first time in 20 years, U.S. life expectancy has dropped—likely due to the fact that nearly 30 percent of the population is inactive. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a issue that rose overnight. To reverse this trend is going to require a commitment to changing the culture surrounding health, sport, and fitness-particularly their costs—in America. In the past, kids would be able to play school sports and join recreational teams for little to no cost. Today, their participation in the same activities places an extra financial burden on their parents. Combine that with tendencies of kids in 2017 to stay indoors, watch T.V. and play video games, and it’s no wonder we’re seeing the figures of obesity and health costs related to sedentary lifestyles that we are. So it’s clear that we need to provide an incentive for people to become more active and make healthier choices, and that’s what we want to achieve with the PHIT Act.
What about celebrity? Are there key athletes that are involved or are they necessary in spreading the word?
Having high-profile athletes to advocate such an important cause is always going to be helpful. Thankfully, we have a host of professionals in the sport and fitness industry who want to help spread the word any way they can. From Olympians like Colin Jones and Heather Petri to NFL pros Payton Manning and Hall of Famers including Herschel Walker, we have a strong roster of athletes, coaches, trainers and other celebrities joining our alliance and helping us find ways to create a movement for a fit and healthy America.
How important is social in your initiatives, and what platforms work best?
Social is huge for us. We use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to disseminate our messaging on why people should support PHIT Act. We’ve been developing specific toolkits for key audiences that we’d like to engage with, and we plan to enlist the support of our membership groups and celebrity athletes so they can pass the information on to their large follower base.
There is a lot of talk about use of data with wearables; any worries about data collection or how it will be used?
This relates to the personal decision of the wearer of such devices. On the one hand, the more data you have to share with your doctor, the more information with which to treat you. On the other, if that data becomes publicly available, then it’s an invasion of privacy. So each person has to decide how they want to use such information.
A year from now, what parameters or metrics would you like to see from the efforts being put forth?
The goal is to see the PHIT Act passed, and a reduced cost of healthy active lifestyles leading to improved health in America.