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  • Active Voice: What the New Congress May Mean for ACSM; Member Advocacy Will Be Crucial

    by Guest Blogger | Jan 20, 2015
    By Robert Oppliger, Ph.D., FACSM 

    The federal elections last fall seemed to indicate that the American voters wanted change. That change included Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate while maintaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives. As the new 114th Congress convenes in January, it will be difficult to forecast what exactly will happen legislatively. World and national events— even the weather— can influence what transpires in Congress. The good news for ACSM is that there’s reason for optimism for our current key initiatives. Although their reasons for supporting physical activity (PA) may differ, members of Congress generally support legislation related to PA on a bipartisan basis. Like cities, states and businesses, Congress is catching on to the value PA provides for promoting health and the economic benefits for the individual, as well as for communities and the nation as a whole.

    In addition to its other policy priorities, ACSM supports three pieces of legislation. The requirement for periodic review of PA guidelines by the Secretary of Health & Human Services may come-up for vote in the lame duck session over the next month, and there’s good reason for optimism that it will pass. Likewise, legislation renewing the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) has received bipartisan support. The PEP bill asks for level funding for competitive grants to promote PA in schools. A third bill, the Personal Health Investment Today (P.H.I.T.) Act, expands the definitions of medical expenses to include PA as an element of preventive medicine. This allows individuals to deduct expenses for selected items relating to PA in their medical savings accounts. Although the bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate, it too has significant bipartisan support in the House.

    I would be remiss if I did not encourage ACSM members to engage in advocacy at the local, state and national level. National office staff offer resources for promoting the mission of ACSM. Becoming a Key Contact offers a simple, but significant, way to become engaged. Periodically, ACSM staff will contact Key Contacts regarding federal legislation and encourage us to contact Congressional delegates in support of specific issues, e.g. the three bills mentioned above. Becoming a Key Contact merely requires clicking the button on ACSM’s website and providing the needed information. On March 3-4 2015, ACSM will host its 3rd annual Capitol Hill Day. No experience is necessary to participate, and we do on-the-job training. It’s not difficult, but it is a great opportunity to see how public advocacy works. I hope you’ll join us. Contact Monte Ward ( for more details or to sign-up.

    In brief, there will be change. However ACSM’s mission to promote physical activity should continue to make progress.

    ACSM is planning a webinar in January that will provide more information about the new Congress and the implications for issues related to the promotion of physical activity. Look for more details in future issues of SMB.

    Viewpoints presented on the ACSM blog reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.

    Robert (Bob) A. Oppliger, Ph.D, is a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine and has served on a wide range of ACSM committees for more than 20 years. Currently, he is chair of ACSM’s Health Science Policy Committee and holds memberships on both the Strategic Planning Committee and ad-hoc ActivEarth committee. His academic vita includes more than 50 publications and well over a hundred presentation to scientific and lay audiences. He has chaired the authoring committee for an ACSM position statement and been a consultant to the NCAA, National Federation of High School Associations and several state high school sports associations. Bob is a League of American Bicyclist (LAB) Cycling Instructor and currently, a candidate for the LAB’s board of directors. When he’s not on a bike, he referees little league and high school soccer and tends his gardens

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