Fitness professionals understand firsthand the transformative power exercise can have on an individual’s health and life. The right approach can make all the difference. If recent proposed federal legislation is any indication, lawmakers are starting to understand that health, fitness and wellness should be as American as mom and apple pie. As of press time, the following health-related items are being considered on Capitol Hill.

Federal Legislation

The Health Promotion FIRST (Funding Integrated Research, Synthesis and Training) Act (S. 866) amends the Public Health Service Act. It would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a strategy that would include coordinating the health promotion activities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Under this act the HHS would address how best to

  • develop the basic and applied science of health promotion;
  • synthesize and disseminate health promotion research;
  • support the health promotion community; and
  • modify or develop resources, policies, structure and legislation to integrate health promotion into all health professions and sectors of society.

The act also requires the HHS secretary, acting through the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to develop a plan to establish a health promotion research agenda. In addition, as it is currently written, the act requires a modification in the grant and contract application procedure “to attract the most qualified individuals and organizations, rather than those most experienced with the application process.”

The Healthy Workforce Act (S. 1754) motivates employers to implement workplace wellness programs. It provides a tax credit for half of the cost of a qualified employer health promotion program: up to $200 per employee for the first 200 on staff and $100 per individual for remaining employees. The credit is realized through income tax credits or payroll tax, depending on the status of the employee. The act also directs the CDC to develop an outreach program that would make employers aware of the tax credit and educate them on how to develop effective programs and measure success. Another initiative in the act is to instruct the CDC to expand the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to include a workforce component.

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 245) would allow up to $1,000 a year from pretax Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts to pay for exercise programs, gym memberships, fitness equipment and sports-league fees for kids and adults.

The Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention (HeLP) America Act (H.R. 2633/S. 1342) amends the Public Health Service Act to require the HHS secretary to convene a task force on childhood obesity. The legislation “seeks to improve the health of Americans and reduce healthcare costs by reorienting the nation’s healthcare system toward prevention, wellness and self-care.” It also includes incentives that ensure the “safety and convenience” of pedestrians and bicyclists, which may encourage physical activity.