FW: Next Surgeon General?
ruttd at co.lucas.oh.us
Wed Apr 11 06:49:57 PDT 2001
Interesting article. However, the tax deduction for healthy behaviors would likely be very poor public policy, largely because there are much more cost effective strategies available. Implementing such a program would be highly problematic. The IRS is not well suited to monitoring such behavior. With 130 million individual tax returns at current prevalence rates for obesity, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, and smoking, and assuming an average tax rate of 20%, the proposed policy would cost on the order of $20 billion. And that's just for rewarding people for where they are at, with no change in health status! By way of comparison, the CDC's total 2001 budget is $4.2 billion, and NIH's total 2001 budget is almost $19 billion. My guess is that doubling CDC's and NIH's budgets with a charge to address these factors would improve our health a great deal more...
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ruttd at co.lucas.oh.us
>>> CGleason at hrsa.gov 04/10/01 01:42PM >>>
Kenneth Cooper for Surgeon General? This is an article from the Washington
Improve Your Health, Lower Your Taxes
Cooper Proposes New Incentives
By Joey Holleman
Monday, April 9, 2001; Page A17
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Texas physician who introduced aerobics and is a
candidate to become the nation's next surgeon general is endorsing federal
tax breaks to encourage more healthful behavior.
Call it an aerobics-and-veggies deduction.
"We need a financial incentive to encourage Americans to take care of
themselves," Kenneth H. Cooper said of the proposed tax deductions.
Cooper, a friend of President Bush and the man credited with coining the
term "aerobics," spoke to a conference of health officials Friday.
On Thursday, he was in Washington talking with Bush administration officials
about the surgeon general post.
Surgeon General David Satcher intends to serve out his term, which expires
in February. Cooper said he has been asked to consider the post at that
A Bush spokesman said Friday the administration doesn't comment on
Cooper said the discussion has reached the point to where he is
investigating the divestment of his nonprofit center, the Cooper Institute
for Aerobics Research, to prevent a conflict of interest.
Cooper, 70, is full of ideas to push from the bully pulpit of the surgeon
general. He said he presented a 15-point plan to Bush officials, including
the tax proposal.
His plan would give tax deductions of up to $1,000 per person for taking
care of himself or herself.
Keep your body mass index under 25, and you get a $250 deduction. You would
get $250 deductions for keeping your blood pressure under 140 over 90,
keeping your cholesterol under 200 and not smoking.
"Up to 73 percent of diseases in this country are the result of an unhealthy
lifestyle," Cooper said. "That will only change if people do it themselves."
While the logistics of providing such deductions could prove troublesome,
some of his other proposals might be easier to implement.
He would like to see:
* Tax breaks for companies that offer employee wellness programs.
* Tougher mandates on school meal programs -- requiring more fruits and
vegetables and less fatty foods.
* Tougher regulation of the vitamin and dietary supplement industry.
He thinks the cost of these proposals would be offset by the improved health
and productivity of the country.
"One can grow healthy as one grows older, instead of the reverse," Cooper
Cooper's groundbreaking book "Aerobics" came out in 1968 and sparked an
exercise boom. Before his book, exercise programs focused on building muscle
mass through isometrics -- mostly weightlifting.
He detailed the health benefits of aerobic exercise, which is based on
endurance more than strength. Running is the leading aerobic exercise.
Cooper started his medical practice in Dallas in the early 1970s with an
unusual attitude. Rather than healing the sick, he would take healthy
patients and maintain or improve their conditions.
Thirty years later, his operation has 450 employees and a six-month waiting
list for fitness exams.
"We've proven it's cheaper and more effective to maintain good health than
to regain it," he said.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
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