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Entries in Helen Durkin (31)


PHIT Introduced in Congress, Signaling the Fitness Industry Is Being Heard

PHIT, the fitness industry’s top federal legislative priority, was introduced today in Congress.

On the national front, IHRSA’s advocacy team has been actively engaging with Congress, the Administration, and allied organizations to promote physical activity and advance the interests of health club businesses, which are instrumental in building a healthier and more prosperous America.

Continue reading "PHIT Introduced in Congress, Signaling the Fitness Industry Is Being Heard."

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This Week in the Fitness Industry: 1escape Health Club Breaks Guinness World Record

1escape Health Club Breaks Guinness World Record
Hundreds of people gathered in Dublin’s Smithfield Market on September 15 to break the Guinness World Record for the largest exercise ball demonstration/class, according to the club’s website. The main purpose of the event, which was open to the community, was to raise money for MS Ireland. “It also reflected 1escape’s continuous pledge to provide a platform the help get Ireland fitter,” the club says.

Gym Memberships Improve Mental and Physical Health
Joining a gym significantly increases the likelihood of achieving fitness goals, according to research from Iowa State University, GoodTherapy reports. A study that compared data on 204 gym members to 201 non-members over a period of five months found that gym members got 14 times more aerobic exercise than non-gym members. They were also 10 times more likely to meet guidelines for muscle-strengthening activities. And the benefits of exercise don’t stop there. GoodTherapy also points to several studies that show a link between exercise and improved mental health. Research suggests exercise can reduce depression, increase neuroplasticity, and help treat posttraumatic stress.  

All Sport Health and Fitness Launches Composting Program
All Sport Health and Fitness has launched a composting program at their café because the Fishkill, NY-club “not only believes in keeping people healthy through the food offered, but also in keeping our environment healthy by reducing our landfill waste,” according to a release. Going forward, cups, utensils, containers, and leftover food from Fuel Café will be composted. The café has been participating in the Zero to Go compost program since mid-January, and has been updating disposable cups, containers, and utensils to be compost friendly. All food scraps, containers and cups will be placed in a compost bin and taken to a facility where they will soon turn into soil for future crops.

Health Clubs Play an Important Role in Cancer Prevention
February is Cancer Prevention Month, and IHRSA is teaming up with the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) to spread the word about how healthy behaviors can help prevent cancer. Health clubs can play an important role in helping their members and communities prevent cancer through exercise, and the 
IHRSA Foundation is launching a pilot program, ACCESS Health: Cancer Wellness, at an IHRSA club in California this year. The program focuses on using physical activity, nutrition, and stress management to improve quality of life outcomes of cancer survivors. Data from the pilot will inform future health-club based programing for cancer survivors. Read the full blog post about exercise and cancer prevention.

The Healthcare Cure Must Include Prevention
“It seems incongruous that obesity—which costs our nation an estimated $147 billion or more each year—is barely covered in medical school,” Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy, wrote in a post for the Morning Consult. “A recent study found that medical students receive hardly any training in obesity. And the exams they take to be licensed as doctors include very few questions about obesity prevention and treatment. It’s like we’re approaching healthcare reform in a vacuum.” Read the full Morning Consult post.


Congress, Stop Sitting Around

"Sitting. Sitting while watching TV. Sitting while at the computer. Sitting while at the drive-through. These are all things Americans do-a lot.

"But sitting is costly. Studies show that all this sitting costs governments, societies, and ourselves."

The above is how Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy, began her op-ed directed to Congress that appeared in this morning’s edition of Morning Consult.

"Unfortunately, moving is something relatively few of us seem to find time to do," she continued.

Since September is World Alzheimer's Month, and more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, Helen’s editorial urges Congress to ‘stop sitting around and move a piece of legislation that can help get Americans moving'—the PHIT Act.

Helen shares data on the far-reaching financial ramifications of the disease, and the sadly underutilized role exercise plays in fighting this dreaded disease, such as the fact that four out of five of the most costly chronic conditions affecting Americans 50 and older can be prevented or managed with exercise, according to the CDC.

Read the full editorial in the Morning Consult and let us know what you think at


IHRSA Generates Support for PHIT Act on Capitol Hill 

(Click to enlarge)Several IHRSA members and staff, along with members of the PHIT Coalition, conducted a lobby day on Capitol Hill today to generate additional support for the PHIT Act.  

Members of the PHIT Coalition, co-chaired by IHRSA and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), met with members of the House and the Senate, asking them to co-sponsor the PHIT Act. Currently, PHIT has 101 bipartisan sponsors, with 88 from the House and 13 from the Senate.

PHIT, the Personal Health Investment Today Act, would allow Americans to use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos and youth sports league fees. If passed, it would allow individuals to tap their pre-tax account up to $1,000 per year to cover these expenses—families would be granted up to $2,000.

In addition to the day’s lobbying efforts, members of IHRSA’s Board of Directors are presenting the first-ever “IHRSA Get Active Leadership Award” to Congressional Fitness Caucus co-chairs, Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Bob Dold (R-IL). This inaugural award honors Members of Congress with especially strong track records of supporting policy initiatives that promote physical activity.

Presenting the IHRSA Get Active Leadership Award to Rep. Ron Kind

“This lobbying day provides the perfect occasion to rightfully acknowledge and honor Reps. Kind and Dold for their long-term commitment to helping Americans live healthy lifestyles,” says Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy. “By presenting them with the ‘Get Active Leadership Award’, we hope to raise the visibility of their efforts and to inspire others on Capitol Hill to recognize the important role that public policy has to play in enabling all Americans to embrace and live more physically active lives.”

Missy Moss, Steve Cappezone and Allison Flatley, members of IHRSA’s Board of Directors; Suzanne Trainor, IHRSA’s public policy assistant, and Tom Scanlon and Jay Sweeney, the association’s Washington D.C. lobbyists, represented IHRSA and its members at the event.


Will Your Health Club's Social Media Policy Get You Sued?

The following was written by Helen Durkin, JD, executive vice president of public policy for IHRSA. 

Put yourself in the place of Chipotle Mexican Grill—an American fast food restaurant chain. 

A customer tweets “Free Chipotle is the best thanks.” A Chipotle employee replies from his personal social media account and says “Nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members only make $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?” The employee then also posts more tweets commenting on both the hourly wage and lack of snow days for hourly employees. Chipotle responds telling the employee that the tweets violate the company’s social media policy and tells him to delete them. Chipotle terminates the employee (for other reasons). 

Spoiler alert—this story does not end well for Chipotle. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—a U.S. government agency focused on union representation, but also charged with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices—said not so fast, Chipotle.

The NLRB is increasingly scrutinizing employer social media policies and the actions employers take to regulate social media posts by their employees. According to the NLRB, the rationale for this scrutiny is the National Labor Relations Act, which “protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.” 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the Chipotle case and look at the implications for club operators. 

The National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing the case against Chipotle ruled in March 2016 that Chipotle violated the law when it used an unlawful social media policy to require the employee to delete tweets from a personal account and tell him not to engage in such action in the future. The ALJ paid particular interest to two provisions of Chipotle’s social media policy: 

“If you aren’t careful and don’t use your head, your online activity can also damage Chipotle or spread incomplete, confidential, or inaccurate information.”

“You may not make disparaging, false, misleading, harassing or discriminatory statements about or relating to Chipotle, our employees, suppliers, customers, competition, or investors.”

The ALJ ruled that the first provision was okay but had problems with the second. It found that provisions that prohibit “derogatory statements” cannot be overly broad and impact employees’ rights to work together to improve their pay and working conditions. The ALJ commented on the false statements noting that “more than a false or misleading statement by the employee is required; it must also be shown that the employee had a malicious motive.”

So what do you do now? If you do have a social media policy, it is a good idea to have it reviewed by an attorney. If you modeled your policy after the social media used by a large company, don’t believe that makes you safe. The NLRB is increasingly finding elements of large company’s social media policies illegal.  If you are just considering implementing a social media policy or want to review your current one for yourself, the NLRB General is helpful in detailing what constitutes a legal social media policy.

In a May 30, 2012, NLRB General Counsel Memo, the NLRB provided an example of a social media policy that passed legal scrutiny. If you like to read legal papers, you can download the entire memo, but to make it easier for you, we’ve provided the entire approved policy (PDF). Take a look at it, and see if it can help you stay on the legal side of the social media policy debate.


100 Strong Voice their Support for PHIT

Just three months after IHRSA launched the Tax Weekend Challenge to generate support for WHIP and PHIT, PHIT has reached a milestone of 100 supporters. 

Over the weekend, Congress began its well-deserved recess period. But, before the bang of the gavel sounded, indicating the adjournment of summer sessions, Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) became the 100th member of Congress to address physical activity as a national priority by signing on to the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act as a co-sponsor in the House of Representatives. 

PHIT—introduced in the Senate in October 2015 and in the House of Representatives in March 2015—would increase the affordability and accessibility of a number of fitness products and services including health club memberships, fitness equipment, workout videos, and youth sports league fees. If passed, the bill would allow individuals to use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to finance these expenses. Individuals would be granted up to $1,000 in pre-tax dollars to spend on fitness and families would be granted $2,000. 

Additionally, PHIT would: 

  1. Ignite the movement to get more Americans excited about physical activity. Physical inactivity is the cause of one in 10 deaths worldwide. Legislation like PHIT would act as encouragement to get the sedentary population moving and would encourage Americans to be more involved in daily physical activity. 
  2. Save the average family 20-30% on the cost of physical activity expenses. Financial stability is a large factor to consider when deciding to participate in any kind of activity. If membership costs for joining a health club are lowered, one of the barriers to becoming a member is also lowered. 
  3. Reduce the amount of healthcare dollars used to treat chronic disease. Since many chronic diseases are linked to lifestyle factors, increasing healthy behaviors such physical activity would help to decrease the prevalence of these same diseases. Under current law, pre-tax medical accounts can only be used to cover specific expenses related to prescriptions or doctor’s visits. However, PHIT would allow individuals to spend money on key preventative measures and not just on medical expenses. 

The bill has gained significant traction with near equal bi-partisan support from Democrats (55) and Republicans (45). 

IHRSA is encouraging the fitness community to reach out to their members of Congress and ask that they participate in the Campaign to Support PHIT.   

In a letter to ILC Members about the great news, Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy said, “I try to keep my ILC emails to a minimum this time of year, but this news was too good not to share.”


The Missing Sound Bite in the Presidential Campaign

The following is an excerpt from a Morning Consult article, written by Helen Durkin, executive vice president of public policy for IHRSA.  

When the presidential candidates are challenged with voter questions on how they’ll drive down the cost of healthcare, the word “prevention” should pop right out. 

Personal tales of heavy premiums, rising deductibles, and increased out-of-pocket healthcare costs are cropping up all along the campaign trail. 

Voters are complaining that they’re spending more of their own money on healthcare than ever before. And businesses have been saying for years that they can’t sustain current healthcare costs. 

Over about a 10-year period, the percentage of workers enrolled in high-deductible employer-sponsored plans has more than quadrupled, from 10% in 2006 to 46% in 2015. And a family of four now pays roughly $10,000 in medical expenses, or about 19% of its yearly income, with deductibles between $1,000 and $3,000, according to the Commonwealth Fund. 

At the same time, more than half of all Americans (59%, or 190 million-plus people) have one or more chronic health conditions, which alone cost plenty. 

Someone diagnosed with a chronic illness can expect a 12% drop in earnings at the time of onset; and that loss increases to a sustained 18% over time. Realize, too, that these lost wages are on top of the financial load these individuals already carry in disease-related medical costs. All told, treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation’s healthcare spending. 

The thing is, a great deal of this economic burden could be alleviated if our healthcare system prioritized prevention and Americans followed healthier living habits. 

After all, many chronic diseases are avoidable, or can be delayed and better managed. 

At least 80% of all heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, along with more than 40% of cancers could be prevented if we would take action to eliminate the four key risk factors known to fuel chronic diseases: physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and too much alcohol. 

A recent study by IHS, commissioned by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), put a dollar amount on the savings our nation could recoup if we made prevention a priority. The study asserts we could save $116 billion a year by assuming modest changes in healthy behavior and healthcare delivery, including increased physical activity, reduced smoking and obesity, and improved treatment rates. 

The bottom line is this: If something doesn’t give, chronic diseases could cost our country $2 trillion in medical expenses and another $794 billion in lost employee productivity each and every year between now and 2030. 

Continue reading Helen Durkin’s article on Morning Consult.


IHRSA Represents at Prestigious BIAC Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being

Several IHRSA representatives, including Helen Durkin, IHRSA's executive vice president of global public policy, Kilian Fisher, IHRSA's global public policy advisor, and IHRSA members Martin Seibold and Catherine Carty, are representing the fitness industry at the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being.

Catherine Carty and Kilian Fisher at OECD in Paris.

The forum, held May 3-4, 2016 in Paris at the OECD headquarters, is a unique two-day event that brings together senior representatives from government, the OECD, the leaders of multi-national consumer corporations, and leading experts in health and wellbeing to exchange solutions and policy recommendations.

Riz Khan, an internationally recognized journalist and author with shows on CNN International and Al Jazeera English, is moderating the two-day discussion.

The event will showcase the diversity of how business is involved in providing solutions to healthcare challenges. Participants will learn how the food and drink industries are investing in innovations to deliver healthier products for consumers.

As employers, businesses are also providing wellness programs that empower populations and increase productivity. The business community knows that we are just one stakeholder, and the event will showcase examples of partnerships with governments and community stakeholders to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, as well as education programs that encourage populations to become physically active and adopt healthy lifestyles.

Martin Seibold and Catherine Carty about to speak on improving well-being."With so many multi-national food and drink companies and trade associations involved, this is our opportunity as one of the few 'positive' industries involved to really drive the health and wellness message, especially with regard to what the fitness and health club industry can offer to help addressing the global health crisis," Kilian Fisher said when speaking about the opportunities presented in attending this event.

IHRSA's representatives Catherine Carty, manager, UNESCO chair for inclusive Fitness, Sport, and Recreation (UFIT), and Martin Seibold, managing director of Fitness First UK, presented on day one on behalf of the fitness industry.

The discussion outcomes of the meeting are relevant for the global health community.

Find out more about the BIAC Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being. You can also follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #BIAChealth.

Event representatives include:
Heineken, The Coca-Cola Company, The McKinsey Global Institute, Nestlé Research Center, UNESCO, Fundación de Investigaciones Sociales, IHRSA, Fitness First UK, COCIR, Healthcare Services and Solutions, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Government of Sweden, EFPIA, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, Pfizer Inc., Mines ParisTech, and The National Institutes of Health.

Can America’s Doctors Lead Us to Better Health?

The following is an excerpt from a Medical Economics article, written by Helen Durkin, executive vice president of public policy for IHRSA, and Edward M. Phillips, MD, Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, and Director, Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital 

It’s hard to miss the fact that the health of our country is struggling. Only about a quarter of American men and a third of American women are at a healthy weight, almost half of all Americans have at least one chronic health condition, and 86% of our healthcare spending goes to treating them.  

Yet, we know that four modifiable lifestyle behaviors are behind most chronic diseases: physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and the harmful use of alcohol. Study after study has shown that 150 minutes each week of moderate intensity physical activity lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and even some cancers.  

Time and again the medical marvels of exercise have been proven. But there’s still not much coaching going on in exam rooms. Only about 9% of doctor office visits include physical activity counseling.  

It makes you wonder—after all, if exercise is one of the most effective methods for enriching wellness and preventing and managing disease, shouldn’t it be the first line of treatment for patients and not the last?  

The underlying reason for this disconnect may lie in how physicians view their role generally and how they are trained and paid. Historically, the focus of the U.S. medical system has been on treating illness. And frankly, doctors tend to view their role as deliverers of the cure—with relatively little time or training spent on prevention or health promotion.  

But with often-avoidable chronic diseases now the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, doctors need to start seeing themselves less as mechanics applying a fix once disease appears, and more as leaders of our country’s wellbeing. It’s time for our healthcare system at large to rethink what it really means to heal.

Continue reading Helen Durkin's Medical Economics article.


Outmaneuvering Cancer Via Public Policy

The following is an excerpt from a post on The Hill's Congress Blog, written by Helen Durkin, executive vice president of public policy for IHRSA.  

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t tense up when they hear the word “cancer,” or have some other visceral response to it. It’s one of the few stand-alone words in the English language that can elicit remarkably powerful, prevailing emotions. 

Maybe that’s because cancer has affected most of us in one way or another. If we haven’t experienced cancer ourselves, chances are, someone we love and care about has. I lost my mother to cancer. 

Given the widespread physical, emotional, and financial suffering that cancer inflicts, you’d think we’d be more united as a society in doing everything possible to protect ourselves and loved ones against this seemingly ubiquitous disease. 

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about research. Although getting behind research into a cure is critically important to eradicating cancer once and for all. 

Even in President Obama’s State of the Union address, he talked about a new moonshot, raising our sights to become the country that finally cures cancer. 

But again, he was talking about research. 

I’m talking about prevention. 

More specifically, I’m talking about public policies, legislation, community planning, infrastructure, thought leadership, and the grassroots social changes needed to stop cancer before it strikes. 

Continue reading Helen Durkin’s post on The Hill’s Congress Blog