Fitness Tax Credit: Fitness Inducer or Revenue Reducer?

A while back I wrote about a proposed junk food tax.  Proponents of junk food taxes argue that maintaining good health amoung individuals in society is an important public policy consideration.  But there are components to a healthy lifestyle beyond avoiding junk food.  Fitness through physical activity is frequently cited as a critical element of healthy lifestyle.  Daily exercise and weight control is the bedrock of the nutrition pyramid published by the Harvard School of Public Health.  And the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports that “Adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day for their health.” ((http://www.fitness.gov/resources_factsheet.htm))  In response to these calls for increased physical fitness, some are proposing a fitness tax credit.  If the health of individuals is indeed an important public policy objective, then a fitness tax credit, a tax credit that makes fitness resources more accessible, may be a worthy consideration.

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The Tension Between Public Healthcare and Personal Health Habits

Does societal responsibility for individual health needs give rise to individual responsibility to maintain health?

The proposed changes in healthcare have consumed a fair portion of media attention over the past few months.  Much of the debate revolves around the provisioning of healthcare to American’s.  But buried deep in the discussions is some talk about preventive care and the role that health maintenance plays in America’s overall healthcare policy.  President Obama’s healthcare policy discussion mentions individual responsibility for preventative care:

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that protecting and promoting health and wellness in this nation is a shared responsibility among individuals and families, school systems, employers, the medical and public health workforce, and federal and state and local governments. All parties must do their part, as well as collaborate with one another, to create the conditions and opportunities that will allow and encourage Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles.”[1]

The proposed changes in healthcare represent, to some degree, a movement towards increased public responsibility for the health of individuals.[2] If society shoulders some of the burden of individual healthcare issues, then an individual’s health habits have, in addition to personal health consequences, external repercussions.  This begs the question:  If society takes responsibility for the health of its citizens, do the citizens have a corresponding responsibility to society to maintain their own health?

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Is Outdated Behavioral Code to Blame for Unhealthy Living Habits?

Notwithstanding the well known danger and the clear evidence that healthy living habits significantly reduces the risk, many Americans choose to live lifestyles that put them at high risk of suffering from heart disease. To explain this seemingly irrational human behavior let’s take a look at how evolution has coded humans to behave.

codeevoThe leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease.   In fact the average American stands a 1 in 3 chance of dying from heart disease.   Advances in medical technology cannot offset the increasingly poor lifestyle that American’s lead.  Most people are familiar with the most often cited measures for decreasing the risk of heart disease, mainly:


1.       Don’t smoke

2.       Be active

3.       Eat healthy

Notwithstanding the well known danger and the clear evidence that healthy living habits significantly reduces the risk, many Americans choose to live lifestyles that put them at high risk of suffering from heart disease.   To explain this seemingly irrational human behavior let’s take a look at how evolution has coded humans to behave.

Continue reading “Is Outdated Behavioral Code to Blame for Unhealthy Living Habits?”