President Obama is expected to sign a new bill into law soon that would help the private sector promote sports, physical activity and good nutrition in the fight against obesity. Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Foundation on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Establishment Act (S. 1275), following the act's passage by the Senate.
"The legislation allows us to harness the power of the Gatorades, Nikes and NBAs of the world to help deal with our national obesity and inactivity crisis," says Rob Housman, vice chair of the Coalition for the National Foundation on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition - an ad hoc group of like-minded organizations advocating legislation to support the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. "Now the next phase kicks in. We intend to have funds waiting for the foundation when it first meets. We will be reaching out to corporate and philanthropic leaders and asking for their support. And we will be looking to develop ideas for creative partnerships with the private sector for the foundation to consider."
According to the coalition, more than 25 million children in the United States over the age of six are obese or overweight (a five-fold increase from 30 years ago), and 25 percent of all kids do not participate in any free-time physical activity. All told, one in three Americans are obese.
Coalition supporters already include the NBA and NFL, the United States Olympic Committee, Major League Soccer, Major League Lacrosse, the American Heart Association, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Pepsico, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and the National Council on Youth Sports. Housman, who also is a partner in Book Hill Partners (a government relations, public affairs and business strategies firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.), called passage of the act a "huge bipartisan step forward" and contends that it could become "the most significant step in fitness and sports activity since the creation of the President's Council by [President] Eisenhower."