How does the Republican governor-elect of the traditionally Democratic leaning state of New Jersey gather support for his policies? By putting his “weight” behind an issue that is near and dear to the hearts and stomachs of all New Jersey residents.
Governors are to represent the people in a manner consistent with “healthy principles” of governance. They may include balancing the budget, implementing environmentally friendly policies, and establishing affordable public transportation. Health is very much the same way. Calories in = calories out is similar to balancing the budget. Walking and biking trails can be compared to affordable and sustainable “public transportation.”
Health reform is one of the most dynamic and fundamentally bipartisan issues in modern history. Governor Christie has the opportunity to truly capture an issue that affects every New Jersey resident: Health. Regardless of where one stands on healthcare, we are all concerned about the same issues:
• Rising healthcare costs;
• Increasing co-pays and premiums;
• Lack of daily physical activity in our day-to-day life; and
• Poor nutritional habits.
Our new governor has the opportunity to lead a full assault to attack this problem. How does he do this? By creating the Governor’s Health Challenge. The Governor’s Challenge is initiated by his commitment to get healthier through his own actions, thereby leading by example and becoming a “man of the people.” The Governor’s Challenge can reward communities and businesses that support a healthy lifestyle. Repealing the sales tax on fitness club memberships is just one of the many ways to send the message that the state of New Jersey supports a healthy lifestyle.
Below is a checklist of issues that Governor Christie should consider in the development of his health policy.
Lifestyle: Do New Jersey residents currently view health as a way of life? More than likely not. How do we create initiatives to change this perception?
Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy body composition has been linked to decreased incidence of many chronic diseases (i.e. heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes).
Physical Inactivity: Are New Jersey residents moving their bodies four to five times a week for 30-45 minutes a day? Easier said than done, right? Incentivizing corporations and businesses to assist employees and their families is key.
Family health-oriented programming: For one example, cooking classes.
Community-based health education: Health screenings, for example, in traditionally underserved inner-city and economically challenged communities. New Jersey has an extensive university, healthcare, and fitness network that can support the implementation of such initiatives.
Whether it’s health or balancing the state’s budget, a proactive approach with an extensive support system in place will allow Governor Christie to achieve his goals. This could truly be the “grass-roots” program that will captivate and motivate a state that sorely needs to get healthy. By initiating and actively participating in the “Governor’s Health Challenge,” Governor Christie can kick-start a statewide health program while creating good will that subsequently can spill over into his political agenda.
The train is leaving. Hopefully New Jersey is on it! I acknowledge that the governor is bound to be a busy guy and that one of the challenges is to fit exercise into the schedule — this again is a problem all of us face. Governor Christie, we want you healthy and fit!
Smith, the director of education at the CAN DO Fitness Club at Princeton Forrestal Village, is a published health author (Hatherleigh Press), adjunct faculty member at UMDNJ-Newark, and a personal trainer. He has been a professional in the health field for 16 years.
Smith’s published titles can be found on Amazon.com and Lulu.com and include Tri-Power: Triathlon Training; Exercises for Back Pain; Exercises for Heart Health; Navigating the Supermarket; and Business and Practice of Personal Training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.candofit ness.com for more information.