This is a critical time in American history. The United States is one of the richest countries in the world, yet one of the unhealthiest. Our “foundation” as a nation is compromised.
We are overweight, depressed, angry, and sick. We spend too much money on preventable healthcare. I have lived all over the world. The residents of other high-income nations live longer than Americans, and they spend far less on healthcare. They are less likely to suffer from heart disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes. We are trailing nations in life expectancy, and most of those nations spend less on healthcare and develop fewer life-saving drugs and treatments.
There are few issues more important than health. Everybody knows it, but we lack the will to speak up and do what needs to be done. As the CEO of Spartan, the leader in endurance sports and extreme wellness, I’ve seen how good health can change lives and transform futures. I’ve also seen how incentives change the way we think about our goals. Incentivizing makes us work harder, think bigger, and take critical steps towards important objectives. If we are going to impact America’s health crisis, we need to lean into big ideas that change the way we approach the issue.
A ridiculous 75 percent of teenagers aren’t getting the recommended amount of daily exercise. We need to reverse these trends in order to raise resilient, purpose-driven young adults in this country. I propose 3 key changes that we need immediately.
3 Policy Changes That Would Positively Impact Our Youth and Our Country — Immediately
1. Build and Implement a 3-Year High School Resiliency Program
A three-year high school resiliency program, utilizing our military infrastructure, would be transformative. Those who attend would receive financial support for college, and if they decided not to attend college they would receive a grant to build a small business.
2. Incentivize a Healthy Lifestyle
We need to completely overhaul our daily lifestyles. It's not complicated. Exercise more, eat less sugar and less processed food, and get outside more often. That kind of shift would turn our country’s foundation on its head. The result would be lower obesity rates, less depression, and more productivity, which directly translates to more entrepreneurship, more innovation, more jobs, and less strain on our healthcare industry. To achieve that objective, we need to create a program where individuals who take care of their bodies and minds receive certain benefits, financial and otherwise.
3. Disincentivize Unhealthy and Potentially Harmful Habits
Incentives also work in reverse. That’s why a potential tax on ultra-luxury goods, unhealthy foods, and vices — like cigarettes and alcohol — could help us fund healthy lifestyles. And as an added benefit, those who live healthy lives would pay lower taxes. This approach is not meant to discourage people from spending, but rather to encourage them to think twice about consuming substances that cause harm individually and collectively. The incentive structure is simple: If you take care of yourself and your loved ones, it costs less to live.
These are simply policies that would make our citizens healthier, happier, more ambitious, and more productive. Healthier, stronger people make a healthier, stronger nation. It is our job to step in, hold each other accountable, and make our shared country better.
I grew up in a tough neighborhood 50 years ago. I never thought I would go to college. I never thought I would have a career on Wall Street. I never thought that I would raise a healthy, hardworking family. Being focused on health and wellness has helped make those opportunities a reality — and that’s a gift that every American should enjoy.