Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Tevi Troy Promotes Good Health Through the Great Outdoors

Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tevi Troy was the guest at the March Recreation Exchange, a special session held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Park Hospitality Association. Dr. Troy opened his remarks by recognizing that, while science and medical advancements allow people the opportunity to be among the healthiest who ever lived, “good health care is not up to others. Health care starts with self care.” Dr. Troy said that far too many people are not making the effort to take care of themselves, and as a result, chronic diseases have replaced infectious diseases as major killers. “Largely preventable chronic diseases cause seven in 10 deaths and consume three out of four dollars spent on healthcare,” he said.

Dr. Troy told participants that national parks and public lands are important tools in combating chronic diseases. “Far too many people are cut off from nature,” said Dr. Troy. “The reality is we need to get people outdoors.” On March 20, 2008, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports will issue a call for all Americans to commit to physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, for five days a week over a six-week period. Dr. Troy said that this call to activity – the National President’s Challenge – is aimed at spurring our sedentary society to get moving. He also stressed the role of the outdoors in a healthy lifestyle. “After all,” he told the group, “a walk in the park is enjoyable, while a 30-minute session on a treadmill may not be all that fun.”

The obesity epidemic has never been more significant, said Dr. Troy. “In the past 20 years, overweight and obesity among children and adolescents has increased from 11 percent to 16 percent. Ten million children are overweight,” he said. Dr. Troy shared the latest effort to promote good health, the Surgeon General’s new Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative, consisting of six programs that share the right knowledge, the right tools, and the right encouragement to stop childhood obesity:

1. The National Institutes of Health's We Can! program - which helps communities encourage their children to maintain a healthy weight.

2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's School Health Programs to Prevent Obesity and Overweight - which help schools reshape social and physical environments to promote healthy lifestyles.

3. The Food and Drug Administration's Using Nutrition Facts Labels to Make Healthy Food Choices - which uses entertaining, targeted advertising to help children and adults understand food labels.

4. The Indian Health Service's Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life - which helps tribal children and youth make healthy lifestyle choices.

5. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports' National President's Challenge.

6. The Administration for Children and Families’ implementation of its new Head Start Playground Initiative - which provides grants to help Head Start programs develop community playgrounds.

In addition to the Surgeon General’s Initiative, the HHS Administration for Children and Families is partnering with the National Endowment for Humanities for their Picturing America program, displaying 40 iconic American images in national parks and Head Start centers. Dr. Troy said he hopes the images will inspire children to venture out and explore the beauty, history, culture and freedom of the national parks.

Dr. Troy closed his remarks saying, “Prevention makes sense. It is the right thing to do.” He praised efforts by several national park concessioners and the work of recreation community leaders to implement the 2002 HealthierUS Executive Order. He also encouraged Recreation Exchange participants and National Park Hospitality Association members to do even more to encourage physical activity on public lands and to promote volunteerism on public lands – an activity that has been shown to help people meet the Surgeon General’s recommended levels of physical activity.

Following Dr. Troy’s opening comments, he responded to questions from participants. The trend of cutting physical education from the curriculum in our schools was raised as a contributor to the obesity problem. Dr. Troy answered that while the Department of Education deals directly with curriculum issues, top line messaging is being delivered by the White House and HHS to encourage and engage our youth in healthy, active lifestyles.

Another participant urged consideration of a “big idea.” He described how funding from the Highway Trust Fund for Transportation Enhancements had been used to convert abandoned railroad rights-of-way to trails and for the Recreational Trails Program, and urged consideration of a health-care related funding source for trails and other infrastructure for healthy activities. Dr. Troy was told that funding for parks and other federal lands is approved by Congressional entities focused on natural resources, and that human services are not seen as the responsibility of public land managers. Dr. Troy responded by saying that he understood that challenge and felt it merited discussion.

Recreation Exchanges are hosted in Washington, D.C. by the American Recreation Coalition, featuring guests who are influencing recreation policy in America. Information on past and future programs is available at:

If you would like to contact Dr. Tevi Troy, he can be reached as follows:

The Honorable Tevi Troy
Deputy Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
(202) 690-6133 Fax: (202) 690-7755

Recreation Exchanges are held ten times annually and are made possible by the following sponsors:
American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
Kampgrounds of America
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Park Service
National Recreation and Park Association
Personal Watercraft Industry Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
USDA Forest Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service