Update, April 11: This article has been updated to connect members with NIRSA’s Policy &Legislation Committee.

On March 22, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) celebrated their 18th annual National Health Through Fitness Day. Since 2000, SFIA has hosted this day to bring together celebrity athletes, sports and fitness industry leaders, medical professionals, and other advocates of physical activity to promote initiatives that will lead to healthier, more active lifestyles from coast to coast.

This year, attendees met with members of congress to show support for three important legislative initiatives:

  • Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, a bill to promote healthy behavior by giving consumers the option of using their pre-tax medical funds for physical activity to prevent illness
  • Physical Education Funding, by asking that Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) receive its full funding to provide schools the resources needed for quality physical education in schools
  • Physical Activity Recommendations (PAR), by asking for a decennial review of PAR, which was issued in 2008 with no regular administrative process to ensure subsequent revisions and updates, to promote awareness of the types and amounts of physical activity people of all ages and physical aptitudes should perform to gain important health benefits

In the past, NIRSA has been represented at this day through its membership in the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), of which NIRSA sits on the Board of Directors. However, this year, the ‘Day on the Hill’ coincided with other relevant DC meetings. This allowed NIRSA Director of Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships Erin O’Sullivan to attend on behalf of the Association.

NIRSA has long supported the PHIT Act, which has seen an all-time high groundswell of bipartisan support since its re-introduction into both the House and the Senate on March 1, 2017. Such timing made this opportunity to speak directly to members of Congress and their staff particularly significant as we hope 2017 will be the year we #PassPHIT!

Event attendees were broken up into small groups and met with five to eight members of Congress throughout the day. During the 15-20 minute meetings, each SFIA attendee was able to share a bit about the organization they represented and why this issue was important to them. “Getting NIRSA’s name in front of these representatives and senators, as well as bringing the voice of its 4,500+ members into these meetings was significant,” says Erin.

Several of the groups were also joined by celebrity athletes; NIRSA’s group was lucky enough to have former NFL player John Booty with them, who is well known on the Hill as he also coaches for the Congressional Flag Football Game.

Physical inactivity is such a significant problem—for people of all ages and walks of life—that there is no one solution to solving it. Real progress will have to be a multi-pronged approach and PHIT is just one of those many prongs—one that, according to the 2014 Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, will “lead to a $2.5 billion investment in healthy active lifestyles over 10 years.” And this view is widely shared on the Hill. “It was exciting and affirming to see strong support for increasing physical activity from both Democrat and Republican members of Congress,” Erin says.

While having NIRSA’s presence on Capitol Hill was one key to helping make various measures to get America moving successful, continued engagement will go a long way in winning additional support. NIRSA members can contribute to making health through fitness a national priority by contacting members of the Policy and Legislation Committee with issues and updates, as well as engaging in the conversation via social media.

Together we can change the culture and make a difference in the lives of Americans for generations to come.

 

  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships Erin O’Sullivan.