A Vision for a Healthier, More Prosperous America



As a trade association for health clubs, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is rightly considered an organization dedicated to promoting healthy living through physical activity.

We believe deeply that physical activity is a core component of wellness and that its reintegration into American culture is vital to reversing the chronic disease and obesity epidemics threatening our nation’s future.

We are cognizant, however, of the limitations of a policy that promotes “physical activity” as a silver bullet for ending our nation’s health care problems. Surely, pursuing a healthy lifestyle means more than just regularly exercising. It means adopting a whole system of healthy behaviors, broadly defined as “primary prevention.”

So this May, as we celebrate National Physical Activity Month, we are announcing our new commitment to a broader policy spectrum – a spectrum founded on our belief in physical activity as the basis for healthy living – and launching an effort to raise awareness of the need for primary prevention.

The new initiative is based on “A Vision for Healthier, More Prosperous America.”

The text of the vision is below.

Primary prevention – the prevention of a disease before it occurs, including regular exercise, healthy eating, avoidance of tobacco and other controlled substances, stress management, and routine medical exams – is critical to public health and our country’s future economic competitiveness.

It saves lives, encourages increased individual responsibility, increases worker productivity, and lowers federal health expenditures.

As individuals, professionals, and taxpayers, we must recognize the valuable and dramatic role that primary prevention plays in reducing the devastating toll that chronic diseases have taken on our country. And we must support preventative lifestyle practices for all Americans.

Since the late 1980’s, roughly two-thirds of the increase in U.S. health care spending has been due to the increased prevalence of treated chronic disease. Today, about half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases. A greater emphasis on primary prevention would significantly reduce the annual cost of treating chronic disease (currently $1.5 trillion) in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, primary prevention may prevent 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer. A greater emphasis on primary prevention would significantly reduce the incidence rate of preventable chronic disease.

Individually and collectively, we must help our citizens, legislators, and community leaders understand and respond to the documented correlation between chronic disease and primary prevention. We must actively promote public policies and principles – such as financial incentives – that promote primary prevention and personal responsibility, and that remove barriers to healthy lifestyle choices.

We also must support businesses, health professionals, and local public health communities in their efforts to promote primary prevention as well.

What do you think of this vision?