On National Health-through-Fitness Day (NHTF) on March 4, 49ers Tight End Vernon Davis spent the day in meetings lobbying for assistance to fight the increasing issue of obesity and 'Get America Moving'.
Davis joined the Sports Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), other athletes and celebrities and conducted a total of 87 meetings with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and an additional 33 meetings with key Congressional aides and key staff members to propose programs that will enable our society to be more physically active and address the ever increasing problem of obesity in our society. Davis met with Congressman Michael M. Honda, Congressman Sanford Bishop, and Congressman Dale E. Kildee in addition to staff members of Congresswomen Donna Edwards and Lynn C. Woolsey.
The programs proposed included the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) and the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) program. Each program in its own way is designed to increase the amount of physical activity an individual does in their daily life.
As someone who makes a living out of staying physically fit and active, Davis knows the importance of fighting for this cause. "I understand the severity of this issue," said Davis. "Both PEP and PHIT will help improve health levels, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity."
The first program, PEP, is a highly competitive grant program administered by the Department of Education designed to jumpstart innovative physical education programs in America's schools and community based organizations. Since 2001, PEP has provided more than a half a billion dollars in physical education grants to schools and community-based organizations for the creation and expansion of quality physical education programs.
Throughout the country, physical education programs for our youth are consistently declining as less than 10% of U.S. schools have daily physical education class. According to Davis, physical education for our youth is one of the reasons Davis was excited to participate in the day's efforts. He mentioned that not only does it help youth decrease the odds of being obese later in life but also helps them with their school work.
"If you look at the facts and statistics, as far as kids in school, kids that are more active have better grades in school and kids that were less active have worse grades," said Davis.
The second program, PHIT, addresses the cost restrictions some people have on remaining physically active. This bill (HR245) would provide a way to ease the financial burden of participating in physical activity via a tax deduction or the use of funds in pre-tax accounts.
If passed, PHIT would expand the definition of 'medical expenses' for tax purposes to include 'physical activity' as preventive medicine. According to the bill, reporting physical activity as medical expense would allow taxpayers to deduct physical activity expenses once the 7.5 percent medical expense threshold is met and use pre-tax dollars to pay for expenses related to exercise, fitness, organized sports and other physical activities. This would allow Americans to deduct up to $1,000 annually in physical activity expenses or invest up to $1,000 annually to pay for these activities expenses using money placed in existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, Medical Savings Accounts, and/or medical reimbursements arrangements.
Davis was excited about spending the day fighting for these two programs and believes, if implemented, they could make a big impact on the health of our society.
"I think the programs will help, the more you can do, the better," said Davis. "I think they are right, we need more physical education classes to get these kids going and especially the adults because they are not as physically active these days."
Davis and the other athletes and celebrities were a part of the day's meetings to act as a vehicle to address obesity and get Americans healthy and active on a consistent, daily basis. Although lobbying in front of Members of Congress may not be a part of Davis' regular routine, he was honored to be a part of it and looks forward to any future help he can do with SGMA to continue this fight.
In addition to Davis, athletes and celebrities participating in National Health Through Fitness Day included 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker (University of Georgia); former U.S. women's soccer World Cup champion and Olympic soccer gold medalist Mia Hamm; 1984 Olympic women's marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit-Samuelson; former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; current U.S. women's soccer star/2008 Olympic soccer gold medalist Abby Wambach; former IBF welterweight boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi; 1989 World Series MVP pitcher Dave Stewart (A's); 9-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes; active NFL players Chris Draft (Panthers & Rams), Trent Cole (Eagles), and Kerry Rhodes (Jets); current Canadian Football League player Claude Harriet (Toronto Argonauts); former NFL players Ken Harvey (Redskins & Cardinals) and John Booty (Cardinals, Jets, Giants, Eagles, & Buccaneers); and Bernie Salazar from the NBC hit show "The Biggest Loser."