Dr. Scott Kieffer recently served as an envoy for the Sport & Fitness Industry Association's "National Health Through Fitness Day". (photo by messiah.edu)

Dr. Scott Kieffer recently served as an envoy for the Sport & Fitness Industry Association’s “National Health Through Fitness Day”. (photo by messiah.edu)

Carter Davis
Student Writer

Messiah College Health and Human Performance professor Dr. Scott Kieffer put his expertise to good use for the Sport & Fitness Industry Association’s annual National Health Through Fitness Day on Mar. 4.

Kieffer represented the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) in an envoy sent to speak to members of Congress about furthering health and fitness initiatives spearheaded by SFIA, and other organizations including the American Council on Exercise and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In his new envoy role for SFIA, he served as one of many voices in the scientific community focusing on the American obesity epidemic; it’s ties to physical inactivity, and pushing exercise as a form of preventive treatment before Congressional legislators.

One of SFIA’s larger recent efforts related to the obesity problem involves its work lobbying for the Physical Health Investment for Tomorrow (PHIT) Act. SFIA leads a lobbying coalition focused on passing the PHIT Act, which was introduced to Congress on Mar. 5 and was referred to both the House, and Senate Ways and Means Committees for consideration.

The PHIT Act focuses on making physical activity related costs a pre-tax healthcare deduction. PHIT, should it pass, would tack on the term, “qualified sports and fitness expenses” to the list of preexisting pre-tax medical care deductions. These would include prescription medications, emergency hospital transportation, and long-term healthcare costs that fall outside of the range of one’s insurance coverage. The amount a person can claim off these deductions has a cap of $1,000 per person per year (or $2,000 in the case of those filing a joint income tax return) and also extends to include costs incurred by that individual’s spouse, and eligible dependents.

The term medical care is defined in the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as, “the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, and prevention of disease.” Kieffer, and his colleagues would contend that exercise falls squarely within this definition as science has proven convincingly, that exercise is vital to dealing with obesity, and obesity related chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The United States spend $2 trillion on chronic disease treatment annually, and billions of that goes towards treating obesity for millions of people according to Kieffer.

“80 million people in the United States aren’t being active, and the thing is they didn’t lie,” he said. “You’d think people might lie and put down that they at least do something. But no, 80 million people answered, ‘zero’.” That fact served as the big push point for SFIA’s push for the PHIT Act was inactivity.

“If we can start curtailing some of that cost through preventive medicine, how much can we save on healthcare costs and national budget expenses through these incentives,” Kieffer said.

One such incentive under the proposed sport & fitness deductions is fees for participation in youth athletics, an area where Kieffer feels lower income households will especially benefit from if families start saving small, and let the money build.

“If you have to pay $75-$150 per year, and you can put $5 dollars per paycheck, when it comes time to pay, it would be in that Health Savings Account for you to do that,” he said.

The Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), put in place by President George W. Bush in 2003, have took off under the Affordable Care Act, which allowed HSAs to be more productive for those on the lower end of the healthcare coverage spectrum.

The big question is, will these new incentives work for the lower class quickly, or will it take time?

“People with middle or higher income will obviously be able to put more money away, but the bigger question is what can we do to help people?” Kieffer said. “There’s got to be at least something done. It’s only just going to get worse. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out, but eventually it should help bridge the gap.”

Other proposed deduction-eligible purchases include fitness facility memberships, purchases of heavy fitness equipment (e.g. treadmills), and participation in instructional programs for physical activity.

In addition, Kieffer had the opportunity to meet some athletics royalty, who had also joined SFIA’s lobbying for the PHIT Act. Those also in attendance included NFL star Herschel Walker, former Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller, and Tommie Smith famous for his Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City after winning gold in the 200 meter event. The three worked with the representatives from the scientific community, in order to add a little excitement to the conversation about SFIA’s physical activity agenda.

“I don’t get too star-struck, but watching the interaction between the legislators and the athletes was pretty incredible,” Kieffer said.

The PHIT Act, isn’t expected to see a vote until 2016. In anticipation of that vote, Kieffer remains optimistic.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to make this more equitable across the board, but it’s definitely a start in the right direction.”

One Response to “Capitol journeyman: Messiah professor participates in SFIA health advocacy efforts” Subscribe

  1. yahdi siradj December 20, 2016 at 2:43 am #

    detailed and thorough, waw really important and useful information.

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