Making an Impact

Oct 01, 2003

Proposed legislation seeks to inspire action.

Spurred by an increasingly overweight constituency, U.S. lawmakers are working to facilitate health education. The Improved Nutrition and Physical Activity (IMPACT) Act (H.R. 716, S. 1172), introduced by Senators Bill Frist, Jeff Bingaman and Christopher Dodd, would establish grants to provide health services aimed at improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and preventing obesity.

The IMPACT Act is an update of a bill originally introduced last year by Representative Mary Bono. It recognizes significant problems associated with obesity, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and works to reduce those problems by encouraging better nutrition and more physical activity.

“This bill will provide vital information necessary for the American public to make informed choices to live healthier and enjoy a higher-quality life,” said Frist. “With increasing rates of obesity among both juvenile and adult populations, it’s critical that we raise awareness of healthy behavior and the risks of obesity. Obesity is for the most part preventable. If we’re to be successful, the American public must have the information they need to overcome this epidemic.”

Educating the Masses

According to Senator Frist’s office, the IMPACT Act would accomplish the following:

  • Add obesity and eating disorders to the list of priority conditions that health professions should address.

  • Authorize $60 million in fiscal year 2004 to create a demonstration program that would enable communities to focus on specific intervention techniques and school-based activities.

  • Provide additional authority for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect information regarding fitness levels and energy expenditure among children.

  • Authorize a study by the Institute of Medicine to examine the Department of Agriculture’s food supplement programs (i.e., WIC [for women, infants and children], School Lunch Program, Food Commodity Program) to determine whether they contribute to preventing or promoting obesity among low-income populations.

  • Direct health agencies to review any new information relating to obesity trends among various subpopulations and include such information, where it is relevant, in health disparities reports.

  • Allow states to use Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant money to educate communities about nutrition and physical activity.

  • Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to report on obesity treatment and prevention research.

Take-Home Message

The IMPACT Act has the potential to replace lip service with proactive measures. If passed as presented, the bill will not only increase awareness of obesity and its side effects but also allocate funds for dedicated health specialists who work with the overweight population. Fitness professionals fit into this equation and could become involved on a local or state level with some of the community-based educational programs. The reports generated by the IMPACT Act could serve as points of discussion, intervention and action as IDEA members Inspire the World to Fitness.

IDEA Health Fitness Source, Volume 2004, Issue 9

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