Health and Wellness
Americans are facing a chronic health epidemic which is increasing healthcare spending and lowering quality of life. Constant stress and easy access to fast food has exacerbated these problems. Healthcare expenditures in the United States surpassed $2.3 trillion in 2008, with costs from chronic disease treatment accounting for over 75 percent of national health costs. Many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke are linked to dietary and lifestyle choices. Luckily, there are several promising avenues that can help Americans live more wholesome lives – such as practicing mindfulness, teaching social emotional learning and healthy eating.
I started a daily mindfulness practice a few years ago and immediately began to appreciate its practical benefits in my everyday life. It helps me harness more of my energy and pay better attention to what I am doing in relation to those around me. It can be utilized by hardworking Americans in a variety of contexts including in our schools, hospitals, military, and social services. Research shows mindfulness can help address stress related illnesses and lead to greater productivity. This is why I have created a space for other Representatives and staff to learn how to mediate and take a few minutes out of the busy days to have some quiet time.
In the classroom, teaching students how to control their emotions can help them be more successful, as well as make life easier on their teachers. Mindfulness techniques have also been proven to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – as well as those currently serving our country deal with the difficult realities of deployment. Mindfulness practices have the ability to unlock the potential of everyone from blue collar workers to white collar CEOs, and save the government money in the process.
Social Emotional Learning
In the last few years, I have become convinced of the necessity of teaching social and emotional learning skills to our children, and have worked with some great leaders in bringing the financial and intellectual skills and expertise to Youngstown and Warren City Schools. Social and emotional learning is a process that promotes the development of core personal competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills, and responsible decision-making – all within a safe, caring, and participatory learning environment.
In 2011, I introduced the Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Act to allow federal funding for teacher and principal training to be used for SEL programming. As we have seen in schools in our district, SEL helps increase attendance, decrease suspensions and behavioral incidences, and improve attention and participation among students. Creating a healthy and safe environment for students to learn is essential to a quality education. I was proud that language that will help expand and make the teaching of social and emotional learning more effective was included in the ESSA. Creating a healthy and safe environment for students to learn is essential to a quality education and I am proud this bill continues to advance this important cause. I will continue to support legislation that helps our young people both boost their academic potential and teach them how to build the relationships and skills necessary to be a productive member of the American workforce.
I enjoy eating hot wings, burgers, and fries as much as anyone else. There is nothing wrong with eating fast food or getting desert every now and then. However, many government policies make eating bad food the most convenient and affordable option. This cheap, unhealthy food is driving up the number of Americans with diet-related illnesses, like diabetes or heart disease, which is leading to increases in health care spending. Tax dollars are currently going to big producers for corn, soy, and wheat rather than to support smaller producers for locally sourced fruits and vegetables. By shifting subsidies away from highly processed foods, we will be able to move the system in a healthier direction. I will continue to fight to promote realistic solutions to help families access nutrient rich foods, increase utilization of community gardens, and educate Americans about what they are eating.
Salad Bars in Schools
We must do more to help raise awareness and educate our children on how to eat healthier both at home and at school. Most children consume a least half of their meals at school, with more than 32 million participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 12 million participating in the School Breakfast Program. Research shows that children are much more likely to consume healthy fresh food if there is a salad bar available for children to build and create their own meal. However, the upfront cost of acquiring the equipment and the investment in planning and administering a salad bar can be too costly for most schools to undertake with existing resources. That is why I introduced the Salad Bars in Schools Act, which supports creating a grant program that would allow schools to work with existing non-profits that promote getting more salad bars into our children’s schools.
Our medical system relies too heavily on responding to illness rather than promoting wellness. We need to be proactive in encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, rather than being reactive in responding to those who are unhealthy. One way to do this would be to help our those in the medical fields to treat the whole person, rather than just their illness, by including diet and daily exercise in their treatment options. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, many physicians feel inadequately trained to provide proper nutrition advice. Furthermore, the same can be said for physical activity—although expert recommendations encourage more medical schools to teach physical activity, only 13 percent of medical schools integrate it into the curricula. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Expansion of Nutrition’s Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act, which would create a grant program for U.S. Medical Schools and Osteopathic Colleges to create an integrated nutrition and physical activity curriculum program.