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Clinton, Humana Challenge Put Health Challenges in the Forefront

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (left) greets PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem after Clinton's opening remarks at the Health Matters conference in conjunction with the Humana Challenge.
Caryn Levy/PGA TOUR

January 18, 2012

By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR Staff

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—In a panel discussion at the Health Matters conference hosted by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, tennis great Billie Jean King remembered an experience she had with a predominantly Muslim community in Illinois. When the Women’s Sports Foundation, which King founded 37 years ago, approached these Illinois parents about increasing physical activity and fitness among their daughters, the response was that it would be difficult because for religious reasons, the girls couldn’t show their bodies in activities such as swimming.

“So what we did is we went out and found a swimming pool. We covered the windows so they would have their privacy, and now they have access to swimming and they’re getting their exercise,” King said.

Noted wellness expert Jillian Michaels nodded in approval as she listened to King’s telling of the story during the conference, in conjunction with the PGA TOUR’s Humana Challenge, a confab that brought together political leaders, athletes, medical professionals and business executives who see worldwide health and wellness as a major issue that is often ignored.

“Sometimes it just means you need to be more creative and more inventive and more involved,” said Michaels, a personal trainer and New York Times bestselling author. “Whether that means that you get together with a group of parents and you run a P.E. class after school, or possibly you start a local garden, or you get out and start a walking group, what it requires is passion, it requires you to be innovative and it requires you to be committed. But the solutions and answers are there.

“We need to shift our perspective from woe is me—woe is us—to forgetting that and figuring out what I can do as an individual,” she continued. “And when we do that, we will turn this around.”

On a day when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more than one-third of adults and almost 17 percent of U.S. children were obese from its latest study, in 2009-2010, the topic of obesity and diabetes seemed more appropriate than ever. PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem did his part to explain why the Humana Challenge was involved in such a unique partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

“This is sort of a departure for us. This is different. This is using the PGA TOUR’s platform with great partners to do something to change behavior and attitude,” Finchem explained. “President Clinton wants to get people focused on why health really matters and take it to another level. So having the Clinton Foundation as a partner and taking the lead on this effort and using our platform is a flattery to us, and we’re just pleased to be involved.”

Clinton’s passion about this subject shows through when he remembers two 9-year-old girls he encountered, one in New York and one in Washington, D.C. Both had type-2 diabetes.

“This childhood obesity problem is the No. 1 public-health problem in our country,” said Clinton, moderating a panel that included Michaels, King, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt and Dr. Mark Hyman. “And it threatens to give us a generation of Americans who will live shorter lives than their parents. So a few years ago we started to try to turn that around.”

Michaels, a personal trainer for 19 years, remembers her younger days when exercise and wellness weren’t at the top of her list of priorities.

“I remember being that kid whose happiest day in P.E. was the day I had a doctor’s note and didn’t have to go. When we talk about health, let’s be honest. Some of us don’t love exercise. And I personally can’t stand broccoli and grilled chicken,” she said. “But when you look inside and say, Why does health matter? The real question is what does health mean to you? Define that. Is it going to help you walk your daughter down the aisle? Will you see your grandchildren graduate from college? Or is it that you’re younger and you just want to look hot for spring break? It doesn’t matter what your reason is. Identify it, and then seek out those tools necessary to achieve it.”

The Humana Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation continues its focus on health this week, with numerous health-related initiatives in conjunction with the PGA TOUR tournament held at three La Quinta, Calif., courses.

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