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A New Year’s Wish for Wellness

January 19, 2005

A New Year’s Wish for Wellness

The trouble with New Year’s resolutions is that they take resolve. I’m reminded of a friend who told me, “Oh, it’s easy to stop smoking. I’ve done it dozens of times.” Well, in addition to kicking the smoking habit, there is another common New Year’s resolution that is a habit we should be resolved to keep: Eating right and staying fit.

Achieving physical fitness might mean joining a local health club. But there are other, simpler ways of staying fit. How about a New Year’s resolution to take a brisk, 30 to 45 minute walk four or five times a week? Experts say that this can have a powerfully positive impact on cardiovascular health and on general fitness. How about eating more tasty fruits and vegetables, and cutting back on foods that you know are not good for you? These things are realistic and do-able for just about everyone.

I believe strongly in personal responsibility. Every Iowan should take charge of his or her own health. But I also believe in creating an environment that supports and encourages our individual efforts to stay fit and healthy. I believe that people in every community should put their heads together to find ways to promote physical activity, fitness, and proper nutrition.

To this end, I have secured $3 million to fund Harkin Wellness Grants to communities all across Iowa. My vision is to help Iowa become a laboratory of innovative ideas -- a national leader in promoting wellness and disease prevention. I hope that local folks will use these grants, for example, to develop a community-wellness plan, to introduce nutrition programs in schools, or to expand physical education programs.

More broadly, I believe the federal government has a responsibility to promote wellness and disease prevention in a very robust way. I have introduced the Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention Act, also known as the HeLP America Act. This legislation takes a comprehensive approach. It gives the Federal Trade Commission authority to regulate the marketing of junk food to children. It provides incentives to build bike paths and safe sidewalks. It requires nutrition labeling on menus in chain restaurants. It provides tools and incentives to schools, employers, and communities – encouraging them to focus on health promotion and wellness. And it does much, much more.

My New Year’s resolution is to work tirelessly to advance this legislation in Congress, and to give Iowans the tools and information they need to stay fit and healthy – and to stay out of the hospital.

And by the way, the good news about resolutions is that they’re not just for New Year’s Day. You can also make them on February 1 or any other day of the year. So make a resolution that will improve your fitness and health. Then make a resolution to keep that resolution. The life you save may be your own!