In Late May 2013, my travels took me to the great American city of Indianapolis to attend the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). I was there to chair the 4th World Congress on Exercise is Medicine. This is a yearly meeting that brings together some of the leading physicians, scientists and fitness professional from around the world to evaluate and promote the health effects of physical activity and sports. It is always an exciting meeting and a chance to hear about the latest and greatest research in the field of sports and exercise medicine.
Attending this year’s meeting was Dr. Howard Koh, who is the Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, after being nominated by President Obama in 2009. In this role he oversees the Surgeon General and Public Health Corp, along with a variety of important healthcare committees, making him a key advisor to the President on health related issues. I had a chance to participate in a panel discussion with Dr. Koh on the current state of the U.S. Healthcare system. I pointed out that our current system rewards a focus on pills and procedures to improve health, while providing very little incentive for programs addressing lifestyle issues that account for the bulk of disease and premature death. Dr. Koh and the audience agreed that we need to do a much better job promoting “Health Care” as opposed to “Sick Care”.
One of the best ways to promote health is by encouraging all Americans to walk every day. I continue to believe that physical inactivity is the major public health problem of our time and can easily be solved if we could just get every American to go for a 30 minute walk every day. And there were many new studies presented at ACSM this year confirming the power of walking to treat and prevent a wide variety of diseases. Walking really is a powerful medicine to improve health and we hope Dr. Koh and other healthcare leaders in America will lend their support to programs that support walking.
Of course, during my stay in Indianapolis I got the chance to do a lot of walking, not only around the convention center, but also around town. Indy is a very walkable city, with numerous trails that are built along a series of canals running through the downtown area. There is no better way to explore a city than by walking and we need to encourage all cities in America to put a focus on walkability.
Stay well my friends and keep on walking!