by Gretchen Schisla
If you’re following what Bill Clinton is up to these days, you know that after facing cardiovascular disease, he’s completely changed how he eats. I was impressed by a 2013 AARP article that talked about his decision to become a vegan and follow a healthier way of life, now for almost 4 years.
Making the choice to be healthy is smart for individuals, but what Clinton has embraced is even more remarkable – he wants to add wellness into every generation and he’s addressing America’s obesity epidemic through the Clinton Foundation. Former President Clinton is troubled by the increasing numbers of diet-related diseases now prevalent in baby boomers and the ripple effect that will severely impact our medical system, the nation’s finances and climate change (made more severe from meat production).
A Unique Venue: PGA Tournament, Palm Springs
On January 14, The Clinton Foundation led the 3rd annual Health Matters Conference at the start of the Humana Challenge PGA tournament (formerly the Bob Hope Classic). Bill Clinton was asked to participate in this legendary tournament, but said he would only do so if he was allowed to kick it off with a wellness conference. After all, Bob Hope had been concerned with staying fit and healthy. Recalling a past conversation with the then 93-year old comedian, Bill asked him how he stayed fit. Bob Hope said, “No matter where I am, what the time of day, regardless of weather, I walk one hour a day, every day.”
What makes this event special is what happens at its conclusion: sponsors are required to make commitments in their organizations and communities to support wellness and bring about change. A series of panel discussions focused on what the foundation’s strategic partners are doing in business, technology, sports and philanthropy to contribute to the health and wellness of the people of the U.S. I followed much of this day-long conference online, and felt very hopeful afterwards.
Here are just a few highlights:
- Bill Clinton is 100% committed to devoting the rest of his life to better health and quality of life.
- 500 leaders from healthcare, technology, media, sports, education, business and public policy attended the conference to find surface solutions and develop strategies to transform health in the U.S.
- 2014 investments of $100M will impact more than 50 million people. 90% of commitments made in 2013 were fulfilled.
- A panel of technology experts are committing huge resources to providing patient data seamlessly so doctors in rural areas can have access to information to treat patients more effectively and accurately.
- Clinton believes that encouraging 100 million people to do small things can literally change the food and healthcare delivery systems.
- Food producers are already selling fewer calories to people, which over the span of a year can make a huge difference in food intake.
- He talked about the role golf plays in promoting health and wellness — avid golfers walk an average 30 miles a week. The hundreds of golf tournaments held each year raise money for a variety of charities. Players also serve as positive role models to youth to eat healthy and stay physically active to achieve success.
- Clinton spoke about helping to educate Native Americans about health — diabetes in particular. He explained that non-gambling funded reservations are among the poorest places in our country. Genetic factors have an impact as well — Native Americans are 2 times as likely to develop adult onset diabetes, African Americans are 1.8 times as likely and Hispanic are 1.5 times as likely.
- “Healthy City” initiatives are underway in Coachella Valley, CA, Little Rock, AR and Houston, TX. Large populations of people in those areas need access to education, and higher incomes to be able to eat better food. For example, 140 community leaders in the Coachella Valley are working together to improve local health and wellness. The child poverty rate is at 70% and families lack access to fresh produce and better food options. In Houston, 30% of the residents are currently uninsured while south Texas suffers from a large diabetes problem.
- Buying good food can be more expensive than drugs. One of the biggest problems happens when prescription drugs are combined with alcohol — this can have a lethal effect and generally kills more kids than all illegal drugs combined. In many cases ignorance is to blame.
- President Clinton believes we have a pressing responsibility in the U.S. to take better care of ourselves. Americans cannot continue to see themselves as passive, helpless people on a conveyor belt, continually looking to doctors for a quick fix. The sheer numbers of the aging baby boomer population will overtax the medical system if we continue to rely on doctors to help us every time we have a health issue. He argues that we need to commit to live more healthfully and make better choices.
This article only covers a small part of what the Clinton Foundation is doing. Visit their website to see how you can get involved.
Children: Christy Porter / HiddenHarvest.org
Clinton: Adam Schultz / Clinton Foundation