An Unhealthy Irony


While the “Next Great Depression” has school physical education (PE) budgets down on the canvas listening to the eight count, USA Today (March 11, 2009) publishes an article titled, “21% of Americans Scramble to Cover Medical, Drug Bills”.

It continues on page 5 with a headline that reads, “The biggest problem the country has is the cost of health care.” Jim Clifton, Gallup’s CEO and chief scientist for well-being and workplace management says,

“It’s a lot bigger problem than war and a bigger problem than the current (economic) meltdown because there are no fixes to it on the horizon right now.”

Well, I have a suggestion: Support the concept of quality, daily PE for every child grades K-12 instructed by credentialed, well-trained specialists.

CDC summarized the research and strongly recommends PE as an effective way to promote children’s health. The data show that highly active PE classes (like SPARK) help children move more now and hopefully, that behavior continues into the future. Simply stated, physical education IS preventive medicine. Let’s contribute to reducing the cost of health care by ensuring the next generation of adults is ill less frequently than the current one.

How to do that? I believe our challenge has been in formulating a clear message around physical education’s preventative assets and building an effective marketing campaign (simple and clear) that can be sustained. Verb (funded by the CDC) began a media blitz years ago and data show they were making some progress — until their funding stream dried up. The PEP grants (Physical Education for Progress) are federal dollars that have been generously supporting PE and PA programs (but for only 50-75 winners nationally) for the past 6 years. These dollars remain precarious year to year.

Therefore, I call upon our national organizations and friends of SPARK, including AAHPERD and their state affiliates, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Heart and Cancer Associations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and all others who have a stake in public health, to work together and formulate a compelling message that can be broadcast via various media (websites, podcasts, webinars, presentations, television, radio, more) and organize behind a common theme- physical education is prevention – and a proven solution to reducing health care costs.

Speaking for SPARK, we are willing to contribute time and staff to this cause. Who will join us? Share you thoughts online and lets start the movement (pun intended) here.

-Paul Rosengard

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