WASHINGTON, DC--The government is getting involved in fitness in a way it’s never done before. The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) will develop comprehensive guidelines, drawn from science, to help Americans fit physical activity into their lives, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced yesterday. He made the announcement during his keynote address at the National Prevention Summit, an annual HHS-supported event that highlights successful initiatives in disease prevention and health promotion.

“Physical activity is vital to promote and maintain health, but it’s easy for many of us to overlook,” Secretary Leavitt says. “The physical activity guidelines will underscore the importance of physical activity to America’s health and assist on the journey to a healthier life. Good health -- wellness -- doesn’t just happen. Wellness has to be a habit.”
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans will be issued in late 2008. The Physical Activity Guidelines will summarize the latest knowledge about activity and health, with depth and flexibility targeting specific population subgroups, such as seniors and children. The guidelines were inspired by the president’s personal dedication to physical fitness and his desire that every American have access to science-based guidelines, Leavitt says.

Leavitt underscored the importance of shifting from a treatment-focused society to one that values prevention-based care. Treatment for chronic diseases accounts for 75 percent of what America spends on health care each year, and overweight and obesity affects an estimated 66 million individuals. The government plans to emphasize the four pillars of the HealthierUS initiative -- physical activity, good diet, healthy choices and preventive screening.

“Changing the culture from one of treating sickness to staying healthy calls for small steps and good choices to be made each and every day,” Secretary Leavitt says. “These physical activity guidelines will encourage the creation of a culture of wellness across America.”

The president’s proposed FY 2007 budget for the federal health department calls for $640 million on obesity-related efforts, which will fund a range of activities from research into obesity to regulating the labeling of trans fats.