Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Barack Obama Says Shape up Now

“President Barack Obama eats his vegetables and exercises every day — and he really wants you to do the same. From the White House garden to his picks for top health jobs, Obama is telling America’s McDonald’s-loving, couch-dwelling, doctor-phobic populace that things are about to change. Don’t be fooled by the presidential burger runs. Obama and Congress are moving across several fronts to give government a central role in making America healthier — raising expectations among public health experts of a new era of activism unlike any before. Any health care reform plan that Obama signs is almost certain to call for nutrition counseling, obesity screenings and wellness programs at workplaces and community centers. He wants more time in the school day for physical fitness, more nutritious school lunches and more bike paths, walking paths and grocery stores in underserved areas. The president is filling top posts at Health and Human Services with officials who, in their previous jobs, outlawed trans fats, banned public smoking or required restaurants to provide a calorie count with that slice of banana cream pie. Even Congress is getting into the act, giving serious consideration to taxing sugary drinks and alcohol to help pay for the overhaul. To some, it smacks of a ‘nanny state on steroids’ — but for others who fret that America is turning into one big Overeaters Anonymous meeting, Obama’s prescription is like a low-fat dream come true. ‘He has expressed more interest in preventing diseases and promoting health than any previous president. It is not a breath of fresh air. It is a tornado,’ said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. ‘That contrast is breathtaking. This is really a rare opportunity to make progress on so many issues.’ Obama has been leading the charge. He secured $650 million in the economic stimulus package for prevention programs, and brought corporate executives into the White House last month to highlight their success at lowering insurance costs by investing in wellness. ‘All this [is] designed to save taxpayers money, save businesses money and ultimately make the American people healthier and happier and make sure that we’re getting a better bang for our health care dollar,’ Obama said after the meeting. Barack and Michelle Obama sweat through a morning workout before most Americans step out of bed. They receive almost as much attention for their toned bodies as they do for their policies, which for the first lady includes an early concentration on healthful eating. She made headlines worldwide for planting a vegetable garden. And they marked their first Easter at the White House by organizing an Egg Roll that focused on exercise. Former President George W. Bush was equally devoted to fitness but never gave it as prominent a role in policymaking as public health experts expect from Obama. ‘I was always struck by President Bush, who was in terrific shape. It was a lost opportunity on his part,’ said Kenneth Thorpe, an Emory University public health professor and leading advocate of chronic disease care. ‘President Obama is very physically fit, and this is very much part of his personal philosophy, and he has made it a centerpiece of health care reform.’”...

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