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Jim Baugh, long-time tennis executive with Wilson Sporting Goods and founder of PHIT America, is gearing up for the 14th Annual “National Health Through Fitness Day” this week. Learn more about the event through his Q&A.

“National Health Through Fitness Day” will be held Wednesday, March 5, on Capitol Hill. What are the main objectives or goals for the event?

The main objective of the day for PHIT America is to lobby Congress to “get America moving” by passing the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act and extending the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP). The PHIT Act would allow Americans to set aside pre-tax dollars for physical activity expenses – an investment that has been shown to pay dividends in health care savings.

You founded PHIT America in January 2013 to combat the nation’s inactivity and obesity crisis. How do you plan to discuss this with Congressional leaders on March 5?

PHIT America was founded as a year round movement for a fit and healthy America. We communicate this through an extensive social media and marketing campaign to advocate for the PHIT Act and educate America about the importance of being active. On National Health Through Fitness Day, we join with our athlete and industry partners to meet with Congressional leaders and share the benefits of physical activity - both for individuals and for the country. There are not many issues Republicans and Democrats agree on, but the PHIT Act has bi-partisan support. Both parties agree this is good for America.

As former CEO of Wilson Sporting Goods, you know the impact legislation has on consumers. If passed, the PHIT Act will allow Americans to use pre-tax medical accounts for physical activity expenses. What is your message to sports industry organizations to get them more involved?

The passing of the PHIT Act would be an obvious win for the sports and fitness industry. Not only would it lead to more customers and increased sales, it would welcome new athletes to the sport communities we know and love. As an industry, we have catered to observers for too long by selling celebrity jerseys and limited edition shoes. Now is the time to protect ourselves by creating and targeting participants – something the PHIT Act will accomplish.

However, the PHIT Act will be a bigger win for Americans. We will have more active, fit and healthy Americans. Our kids will be more active and healthy. We can help prevent and reduce healthcare costs by having more healthy Americans. The PHIT Act is a win win opportunity…for everyone.

Why do you think the PHIT Act enjoys the coveted support of both parties?

Currently, the PHIT Act has 31 co-sponsors; 17 Democrats and 14 Republicans. It has accomplished this rare bi-partisan support because everyone agrees that it is time to address the 192 million Americans who are not active to healthy standards. We are the most obese country in the world and the percentage of Americans who are completely inactive grows every year. The World Health Organization estimates that every $1 the U.S. invests in physical activity saves $3.20 in medical costs. This is a strong enough ROI for even Congress to agree.

The D.C. event is expecting 15-20 celebrity athletes like Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker and two-time Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch. What impact does their presence have in helping influence legislation?

The presence of these athletes is invaluable. They serve as living examples of how regular activity can lead directly to success and how important it is to lower the barrier of entry for sports and physical activity. Additionally, they represent their sponsors to tell Congress about the financial benefits of a strong sports and fitness industry. Another great thing about having the athletes on Capitol Hill is, to put it simply, the power of their celebrity. Lawmakers deal with lobbyists and interest groups day in and day out, but it’s something different when Jennie Finch walks in with her Olympic gold medal and tells them that they need to pass the PHIT Act.

Besides National Health Through Fitness Day, how does PHIT America keep the inactivity and sedentary crisis in America top-of-mind with Congressional leaders?

As a year round campaign, PHIT America has a number of initiatives to make sure that health through fitness is relevant on Capitol Hill every day of the year. We are currently running a letter writing campaign www.PhitAmerica.org/Advocate that allows anyone to quickly and easily email their representatives in support of the PHIT Act and the PEP program. It only takes two minutes to log on and show your support in a very meaningful way. Once you’re done, send the link to your friends and contacts!

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