On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Guest Insights

Everyday Leaders Bring Health Reform to Life

Joe Moore
Joe Moore is president and CEO of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), in addition to serving on the advisory board of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

While leaders in Washington navigate the political quagmire of how to pay for health-care reform, there are things everyday leaders across America can do to move health reform forward.

The fact is, part of our burgeoning health care costs are directly related to our burgeoning waist-lines. Sedentary lifestyles and poor eating choices lead to health problems, including the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Indeed, if the number of obese and overweight adults in the U.S. continues to grow as it has over the past three decades, nearly nine-out-of-10 adults will be considered overweight or obese by 2030.

Over the last 30 years we've engineered a culture of living in America that minimizes movement, and, unless we act now, our children will inherit this culture of obesity. Government has a role to play, but changing a culture involves everyone, not just lawmakers.

If the health-care reform effort going on in Washington today is to make any meaningful difference in improving America's health and controlling the cost of health care tomorrow, the leaders of America must create a national environment that supports wellness. Prevention, healthy lifestyle choices, and the promotion of exercise must be central to the effort.

Leaders must emerge from all industries, sectors, and corners of the country, while existing leaders must make the health of their followers, employees and students a priority. And while it's important that political leaders create supportive public policies and legislation to make exercise and health living affordable for all Americans, including economic incentives like appropriate tax incentives, it's equally important that everyday leaders figure out ways to affect healthier schools, workplaces, and local communities. For inspiration, see what some leaders are already doing.

A foreign-language teacher at Loudoun Country Day School in Leesburg, Virginia, for example, is showing her K-5 students how they can use movement to increase their concentration, channel their energy, and manage stress. Recognizing that movement stimulates cognitive function and helps keep young brains alert, Dorothea Ragsdale welcomes productive movement in her classroom. By teaching her students "the pretzel" -- a yoga-like pose -- to calm them at the beginning of each class, by having them practice their Spanish numbers while doing simple calisthenic exercises, and by allowing them to have small stress balls at their desks to squeeze, Ragsdale provides opportunity for non-disruptive classroom movement, keeping the minds of her young students in gear for learning.

Jacqueline McCann Cleland, a licensed clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C. metro area, recognizes that talk therapy alone isn't always enough to address the interconnection of weight and body image issues, eating disorders, loneliness, and depression that are common among adolescents today. So Cleland teamed up with an American Council on Exercise (ACE)-certified personal trainer to offer "Heart & Mind Combined," an educational support group for adolescent girls struggling with negative body images, excess weight, and related emotional problems. Participants discover the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices through instruction in mindful eating practices and nutrition, resistance training and cardio fitness techniques, and understanding how our thoughts and feelings influence our behavior and choices.

After a diagnosis of diabetes and a chest-pain scare, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee decided to change the way he lived. He started exercising regularly and made other healthy lifestyle changes. Within a year, Huckabee lost about 100 pounds and has become a leader in the fight against obesity in his own state.

Imagine for a moment the influence everyday leaders across America could have if children saw their teachers embracing exercise and healthy lifestyles in an effort to stay well; if CEOs spread a culture of exercise and wellness among their employees; and if patients came back for their annual visit to a transformed doctor who had addressed his own weight issue with regular exercise--and then prescribed exercise to the patient as well.

Just as strong leadership is essential for effective health-care reform, strong leadership is critical for lasting health reform. Whether you're a CEO, politician, therapist, teacher, health-care provider, or parent, America's leaders must recognize that our country's current health crisis requires our personal attention. Each of us has got to assume the role of promoting exercise and healthy lifestyle choices within whatever realm of influence we have.

So while Congress is duking it out over line items in a health-care reform bill, leaders across America should be rallying on health reform. America needs our leadership now. Our nation's health is depending on it.

By Joe Moore

 |  August 14, 2009; 9:58 AM ET |  Category:  Goal Setting Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Sweating It: Why Leaders Need to Exercise | Next: A Missing Child, a Leadership Journey


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Onbama teardrop soup lines soon. He's loved though. It's an Obama diet plan. Bamboozlers.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 20, 2009 8:59 AM

Health Insurance vs. Health Care.

Health Insurance: I agree that folks should be charged based on ALL the risks they take. It should work like every other kind of insurance (home, auto, life, business, disability, etc..). Those of us who chose to take care of oursevles shoud NOT have to subsidize the 67% who don't! A simple measurement is Body Fat %, Body Mass Index, Blood pressure, Resting Heart Rate, Cholesterol and Sugar.

Airlines have it right....you pay a higher price if you are too big to sit in one seat. Clothing has it right...you pay a higher price if you need more material to make your clothes.

Health Care: Tax fast food, tax sodas, tax ice cream stores, tax restaurants, tax alcohol more, tax cigerettes more, etc... If folks really want these things - just occassionally or constantly, they will pay the price for it both financially and physically. With the money folks save on their own health care, there are plenty of resources out there to teach them to live healthier...the govt. does NOT need to do it for us.

Until a grilled chicken sandwich and a bottle of water are cheaper than a cheseburger and soda - Americans will continue to grow bigger and unhealthier.

Govt. should find simple solutions like this!!! instead of some 1300 page document and hearing after hearing that's getting us no where.

Posted by: wenonah | August 19, 2009 12:46 PM


The government tried to legislate health and morality at the same time.

Did not work then and it won't work now.

Posted by: Chatelaine | August 17, 2009 9:58 PM

I appreciate those who foster the idea of a healthy lifestyle with exercise and good eating habits. However, I cannot support those tying to force lifestyle changes. That is the choice of an individual. Many of those calling for forced menu changes, etc are funding by trial lawyer based groups that can't wait for the public to reach the point the terrible restaurants and fast food locations are "Responsible" for them eating too much. They want their 40-50% settlements now that the tobacco and asbestos cash cows are going. Who is going to fork over the money with Government Health care lawsuits.... You guessed it the taxpayers.

Where were the advocates when the education establishment did away with recesses for kids and active play? Playgrounds were closed and school grounds can no longer be used for unsupervised "by paid public officials" because of insurance restrictions because of lawsuits.

If we want to get kids back active let's have tort reform and loser pays for civil lawsuits.

Posted by: georgiarat | August 17, 2009 8:53 PM

ihatelogins wrote: "WE ALL COST EACH OTHER MONEY. That's the point of insurance, even of society."

Check out your life insurance - you get higher rates if you regularly engage in high-risk activities.

The health costs of obesity do not compare to the costs of fixing up weekend jocks. Any idea how much dialysis due to end stage renal disease (mostly caused by obesity and type II diabetes) costs? About $60K per person per year! Medicare pays about $30 billion for ESRD and you don't have to be poor to benefit - it pays for dialysis for anyone that does not have it covered by their health plan (many max out early on).

It will take a lot to reverse a 30-year trend towards sedentary lives and super-sized meals. I agree that leadership in this area must come from within, but it must also be recognized as a national health issue that needs government support.

So, lets all be leaders: get out there and walk your 1 hour per day and say "thanks a million" to anyone you see walking. Invite friends over to share healthy meals, or offer to bring a healthy lunch to work for a co-worker. Get involved with your local representatives - policy decisions such as school lunches, PE time vs NCLB laws, and funding for local parks and recreations programs need your input and support.

And. . . thanks a million.

Posted by: drmary | August 17, 2009 6:49 PM

Most people will not continually train for a triathlon. I am talking about walking an hour a day or jogging a half hour each day. A 200 pound person walking 4 MPH for an hour a day will burn 468 calories. A Big Mac has 485 calories. By eating one sandwich, that person has wiped out the day's exercise.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | August 17, 2009 5:57 PM

At first I agreed with this sort of thought- the fat people are ruining us!

But I'm tired of it. I'm tired of all this scapegoating. First it was the smokers, now it's obesity.

I'm 5'11, 160lb and pretty average all around... well, okay, I guess more athletic than the American average. Still, I ride a motorcycle, practice judo, play contact sports and go mountain hiking. Yes, it means my heart is in good shape. But guess what: these things also raise my risk of injury.

WE ALL COST EACH OTHER MONEY. That's the point of insurance, even of society. You want to rage a crusade against smokers and fat people? How about people who fly small planes? How about drinkers? People who don't get enough vitamins?

STOP. This is unamerican. Your indirect freedom to never spend money is not as important as our freedom to eat, etc. You want to stop being your brother's keeper? Move to an ice flow.

Posted by: ihatelogins | August 17, 2009 3:39 PM

The key to weight loss is in diet modification -- in cutting back the calories. It is difficult to lose weight with exercise alone. Though exercise is always good for you, exercise alone, without cutting calories, will only keep you at your current weight.

Posted by: kate28 | August 17, 2009 2:59 PM

This focus on obesity is FASCINATING. As I've commented here before, a war for independence, a civil war, and two world wars couldn't suppress the American spirit. But apparently some old fat people are going to bring us to our knees!

It seems likely that some weight standards will eventually be established for health insurance; weight, smoking, past evidence of alcoholism, and other personally dangerous habits already allow life insurance companies to apply differential rates.

But sometimes you should be careful what you wish for. Every good idea can (and usually is) taken to extremes and distorted over time. While today's bogie man is obesity, the next one might be "amount of time spent watching TV," or number of alcoholic drinks taken per week, or motorcycle use or horsepower of cars owned, ... well, you get the picture.

At some level, insurance must cover both sick and healthy people in order for the entire concept to work. If you continue town a road that singles out the "unhealthy" while also maintaining guaranteed issue and mandates, you have an unsustainable system.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | August 17, 2009 1:57 PM

Exercise is fine but with regards to obesity, it is easy to out-eat any exercise program. Do the math and you will see. You don't burn that many calories when exercising. The emphasis should be on the quantity and quality of calories we eat.
Posted by: Bitter_Bill | August 17, 2009 7:58 AM
I get your point, but it really does matter how much you exercise. I'd like to see someone "out-eat" a triathlon training plan or something similar. Blanket comments like "You don't burn that many calories when exercising" really don't make much sense.

Posted by: smc91 | August 17, 2009 1:36 PM

We cut out P.E. from our school rooms in order to test our children to death, leave them in front of tv's because no one is there to watch them, buy them video game consoles that allow them to sit for hours and blow up aliens, and then wonder why they are fat!

Posted by: slang53979 | August 17, 2009 1:07 PM

I work in healthcare, and have been both fat and skinny---it is truly amazing how many people continue to justify their fatness as healthy and become incensed when people critize obesity. Get real, people---like my seriously fat co-worker who continues to eat 3000+ calories daily despite a gastric banding, fat results from eating more than you burn.

Pain is often a necessary part of starting an exercise program, as I know from personal experience. Grow a pair and gut it out......

Posted by: lisa23 | August 17, 2009 12:38 PM

All of us who take care to eat nutricious meals, get lots of exercise, don't smoke, etc., need to have the ability to opt out of any insurance plan that covers those who don't care. If you have no self control, you should have to pay more. You shouldn't ride on the rest of us who don't use insurance like a pig trough.

Posted by: NEWSOUTH1 | August 17, 2009 11:53 AM

This issue is governed by the Golden Rule: "He who has the Gold, makes the rules."
Americans are demanding government pay for their healthcare.
By doing so, they are inviting the governmemt to establish more rules over their personal lives, including eating and exercise.
Americans are selling their freedom every time they take something from the government.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Either you support yourself, or you live by other peoples' rules, like a child.
Admitting this truth is the first step to becoming a free people again.

Posted by: jfv123 | August 17, 2009 10:53 AM

I'm 45, and earlier this year I tried to change my lifestyle to lose weight and lower my risk for heart disease. My doctor encouraged me and even recommended a particular gym. So, I joined a health club and faced my gym-phobia head on (I've been afraid of returning to a gym since I had injured my knees 20 years ago when the trainer showing me how to use the leg press machine set the weights too high).

Things were going fine after the first month, and then my left side of my ribs started to hurt. The doctor thinks it was re-injury caused by the rowing machine (originally injured it when I fell off my bicycle years ago and hit the pavement on my left side). While my ribs healed, I started riding longer and using higher resistance on the stationary bike, as well as additional riding on my mountain bike on weekends. I thought the soreness after finishing a ride would go away after a day or two. However, from my previous experiences with knee tendinitis, I noticed it got worse after each workout. So I stopped exercising to heal. I did lose five pounds before I stopped.

Losing weight is easier said than done. I've had nothing but injuries since my "lifestyle change." Sedentary people with a history of previous injuries can easily get hurt, discouraged and eventually quit. It's like choosing between a lesser of two evils. 1) become more active and risk injury to various parts of your body OR 2) remain sedentary and increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and a shorter life in general. I feel like it's a no-win scenario.

Posted by: TheNervousCat | August 17, 2009 10:28 AM

QUOTE - "We do not need government to micromanage our personal lives"

The problem is that it's painfully obvious many, many people do need SOMEONE or SOME METHOD of helping them to manage their eating habits. Go just about anywhere in this country - the mall, a school function, a restaurant, or just for a stroll in a public place - and it is horrifying how many people are not just fat, but obese! You see whole families, including very young children, who can't even walk normally - they waddle - because of their excess weight. I've seen families like this sitting in restaurants, their table loaded with the most high-calorie items on the menu!

There may be a small percentage of these people who have some rare medical condition that is the cause of the weight gain - but that would be very, very few.

If the government is not going to step up and do something to insist that these people lose weight, then who is? I don't know anyone who thinks the perfect approach is for the government to micromanage our eating habits - but what is your solution?

If nothing is done, the cost for all of us over the next 10 - 20 - 30 years is going to be astronomical. And that's not counting the personal pain and misery so many will suffer as a result of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses.

(Some of these parents who've allowed their young children to become so obese should be charged with child abuse!)

Posted by: DESS1 | August 17, 2009 10:07 AM

As someone who has lost seventy pounds in the past two years, I feel at least a little qualified to comment.

The key change I made in my life was movement. I added a small daily walk -- which is now two big daily walks -- and a yoga class once a week. I got teased in the yoga class by slimmer people and had to learn variations to accommodate my stomach, but just those minor additions to my life helped immensely.

The biggest block was always money -- fatty food is often cheaper and I was unemployed (a friend paid for my yoga classes, bless her). Time was less of an issue, but once I started to work again fifty-five plus hours a week of job took away time from walking.

I had to fight to get a full hour for lunch, but that hour let me take my daily walk.

Soon, I hope to be out of the obese range and merely overweight. People press me as to why I didn't lose faster, but I have a heart condition and lost the 1/2 pound per week my doctor advised.

Lifestyle is the key. Taxing sodas or fatty foods won't help. Money is already the bar for too many people.

Posted by: Fabrisse | August 17, 2009 9:30 AM

Reading liberals on the issue of fitness and the need for leadership reminds me of the old newsreels that were filmed in Stalin's Soviet Union to demonstrate to ordinary citizens how to maintain themselves fit. If liberals wish to make children more active they will confiscate TV sets and the electronic gadgets kids play with for hours daily. And if they insist on a political leader to set the tone, they can convince Barack Obama to give up smoking- just to set the proper example.

Posted by: mhr614 | August 17, 2009 9:21 AM

I think the obese need to pay extra for their health insurance. Money often works as an incentive, maybe also when it comes excess weight.

Posted by: TePa | August 17, 2009 9:09 AM

Exercise is fine but with regards to obesity, it is easy to out-eat any exercise program. Do the math and you will see. You don't burn that many calories when exercising. The emphasis should be on the quantity and quality of calories we eat.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | August 17, 2009 7:58 AM

One of many mistakes Barack Obama made that has made such a hash of his health care proposals was he failure to address the necessity of getting health care costs under control before--or at least, parallel to--any major new programs. And the absolutely essential element in cost control is getting our obesity epidemic under control. That means a change in lifestyles. In sum, I heartily endorse everything Mr. Moore has said.

I'll go him one better. For years, I've advocated the only thing that seems likely to penetrate the skulls of those Americans who want to eat themselves into obesity with cheeseburgers and french fries: a fat tax. No just a tax, say, on Coca Cola, although that would be a good beginning. I mean, a tax on every ounce of ugly blubber someone puts on, as measured by that "body mass" thing that's already established. Major element: Fat people should pay more in health insurance premiums than the rest of us.

Think I'm being smart? Read not only Moore's article. See this week's (August 16) New York Times magazine for an article on--drum roll--"fat tax." At last, this essential ingredient of health care reform is going mainstream. Obese people of America, look out! You have nothing to lose but your fat--or pay the price.

Posted by: tbarksdl | August 17, 2009 6:02 AM

We do not need government to micromanage our personal lives. And there is more to this obesity thing than character failures. If you require someone to monitor how you live your personal life, please hire someone, but do not make the mistake of thinking we welcome more government in our intimates lives.

Posted by: sobi1 | August 17, 2009 5:24 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company