Wellness Revolutionaries | Episode 05 | PHIT for Leading Change with Diane Hart
In this episode of Wellness Revolutionaries, Blake interviews lobbyist, President of the National Association for Health and Fitness, and founder of Hart to Heart Fitness, Diane Hart. Together, they discuss her lifetime of monumental work in public policy and her involvement with the PHIT Act, legislation pending in Congress which will allow Americans to use pre-tax dollars for physical activity expenses.
- Introduction [00:47]
- Meet Diane Hart [04:43]
- Interview with Diane Hart [06:40]
- Life as a lobbyist [10:07]
- Motivation from loss [13:26]
- A Lifetime of work [13:49]
- The PHIT Act [24:39]
- An update on the PHIT Act [41:16]
- Closing Remarks [44:15]
- Credits [44:41]
- The Clean Indoor Air Act
- The PHIT Act
- The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Health
- National Fitness Hall of Fame
- National Association of Health and Fitness
- Rick Stollmeyer’s Op-ed
- Healthy People 2010
- Sports Fitness Industry Association
- American College of Sports Medicine
- Hart to Heart Fitness™
- Tobacco Coalition
- American Medical Association
- MINDBODY One Community
- MINDBODY BOLD Conference
Blake: [00:00:01] If you're happy to be rid of or never had the unpleasant experience of choking on secondhand smoke in a public place the Wellness Revolutionary I talk to today is one of the people you can thank.
Diane: [00:00:12] When I walked into the first restaurant and people were like, "There's no smoking section?" And they said, "No, you will have to smoke outside" if you wanted to smoke outside. But I walked in and everything is open. There's no smoking or non-smoking section. And I went wow I did this. I did it.
Blake: [00:00:47] Welcome to Wellness Revolutionaries, the podcast that shines a light on the leaders of the Wellness Revolution. I am talking about the inspiring women and inspiring men focused on building a culture of wellness in America. I'm Blake Beltram, MINDBODY Co-founder and Evangelist and I'm your host, tour guide, and companion on this journey toward a healthier, happier us.
I don't think this topic could be more important. Today's show features Diane Hart. Diane is a woman who's worked tirelessly behind the scenes in Washington for decades. But what it's really about, at its core, is what she stands for, which is our collective will to impact public policy when it comes to the health and wellness of our kids ourselves and our country. That doesn't sound sexy. I get that. Public policy, okay, but that's exactly why it needs your attention. If you're under 30 or 35ish you might not even remember that smoking was legal in restaurants and bars in many office buildings, in airplanes, and even hospitals until the Clean Indoor Air Act was passed and adopted by all 50 states. This seems preposterous now, right? That you'd walk into a restaurant and the hostess would ask you, "Would you like smoking or non-smoking?" That was the norm and the difference was you'd either be sitting in a booth right next to someone smoking or you'd be sitting across the aisle or maybe across the room or if you were lucky in another room. They sort of shoved the smokers into the back room usually as if the smoke knew boundaries because of course the whole place basically reeked of smoke and it was just a matter of degree depending on where you sat. And I remember if you were starving, sometimes you'd actually suffer in the smoking section just so you could get seated and served quicker. It seems crazy now but it really wasn't that long ago and it took people like Diane Hart and the Clean Indoor Air Act years to get rid of that, to pass legislation simply to protect children and the nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Well you'll hear Diane talk about this today because she was on the frontlines of that battle.
And I also want you to look at today's show through the lens of past as prologue. What are we doing or not doing now that's equally crazy when it comes to our collective health? That Future generations might look back on and wonder what were they thinking and why didn't they change that the way we now look back on smoking laws. Every major CDC stat concerning our country's health is on a downward spiral and yet have you asked yourself who's fighting for a healthier America in Washington? Think about this, if you smoke tobacco, own a gun, or sell prescription drugs, you've essentially got influence in Washington. Someone's looking out for you. But if you believe in building a healthier America, who's got your back? Isn't it time for a powerful wellness lobby in Washington? Can you imagine that? Imagine it being said of a presidential candidate, "She's polling extremely strong with the wellness demographic and that could make the difference in Ohio." Now's the time. The will and the numbers are out there but we're scattered and we've got to come together on this. We've got to put our money and our time where our mouth is.
Passing the PHIT Act, which stands for Personal Health Investment Today is one way for us to demonstrate our collective influence on the Wellness Revolution in 2019. We'll get into the PHIT Act in this episode because it's the latest cause of today's guest Diane Hart who's now fighting for the PHIT Act in Washington so that you can use pre-tax dollars for preventative health care in the form of fitness and exercise. I've personally advocated in Senate offices in Washington with Diane to support this, including the office of my own senator Kamala Harris. I've written an op-ed on the topic and I plan to continue to help lead the fight for it this year and we'll get more into it in this show.
[00:04:43] Diane Hart received the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama through the President's Council on Sports Fitness and Health. She was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and she's the president of the National Association of Health and Fitness.
Now, I want to set the context here because you'll hear Diane talk about being inspired by an open letter. And here's what she's referring to. On New Year's Day 2018, a full-page open letter from MINDBODY co-founder and CEO Rick Stollmeyer was published in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. And let me read you an excerpt from that letter:
"Dear business leaders," he starts, "Americans now spend 3.4 trillion dollars on health care each year with 75 percent of the costs spent on chronic diseases connected to lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and stress. These factors are preventable and can be directly addressed with wellness activities. Time and access are the two major barriers that stand in their way. And as CEOs and business owners, it's our responsibility and duty to remove them. In 10 years, we envision a 120 million Americans engaged in wellness activities. That's more than twice the number engaged today.
Together, let's double down on employee wellness by investing more in our wellness programs. Join us in connecting Americans to wellness and help us make this vision a reality." Rick signed it and it was that letter that ultimately connected Diane to MINDBODY and to me and we found ourselves together at the MINDBODY BOLD Conference in San Diego, in September of 2018, and we talked about employee wellness, wellness in America, and the PHIT Act, which you will know a lot more about, as I think you should, by the end of this show. So here is my conversation with Diane Hart.
Diane: [00:06:40] Are we rolling?
Diane: [00:06:41] So it really resonated with me...
Blake: [00:06:43] This morning when I had my moment of vulnerability?
Diane: [00:06:46] Vulnerability because most people don't want to reveal those types of things. They're afraid that they'll be perceived differently and at certain times in your life, I think people can come in when you let your vulnerability know which is what I did with MINDBODY when I called and asked for help last year.
Blake: [00:07:02] What Diane's referring to here is this morning I onstage let everybody know that I've had one of the most challenging periods of my life the last six months. And, you know, some people call it a midlife crisis. I like to call it a nervous breakthrough and I mean that that's very intentional on my part. That's not just a joke. You know it's a fun turn of phrase but I mean that, a nervous breakthrough because I think there's an opportunity in these things that we're being challenged to grow because my belief is that if we came into this life with a calling to help make the world a better place then we have to be the most powerful version of ourselves right now than we've ever been because the world needs us right now more than ever.
Diane: [00:07:42] More than ever and I believe that sometimes when you've been in a field for so long, it wears you down and you have to find those other thought leaders that reflect your heart. And I don't know how else to say it is very difficult to find those people because they don't let down their guard very often.
Blake: [00:07:57] So you were in a little bit of a dark place it sounds like.
Diane: [00:08:00] Correct.
Blake: [00:08:00] And then you talked about New Year's Day.
Diane: [00:08:03] In snowy, upstate New York and opening The Wall Street Journal and seeing MINDBODY's letter that was calling on corporate executives to lead the charge in our country. And I've struggled for 30 years with public government organizations versus private sector while we've always tried to include them, the private sector wasn't really visible to me. So to see that letter and to see that MINDBODY had that internal drive to reach corporations because that's where the people are working. It isn't just the populace. It's the people who pay the taxes. It's the people who have the struggles and that MINDBODY recognized that through that letter it was like an epiphany. I said I have to make this call. It's going to be a cold call. I don't know anyone and I just made the call and the rest is history.
Blake: [00:08:52] Diane, that's astounding to me because you've been in this fight for a long time.
Diane: [00:08:57] Decades.
Blake: [00:08:57] But something, and when you told me about this when you and I first connected on this, you told me about opening the New York Times and reading that open letter, inviting the business leaders across America to join us in investing in their employee wellness program. I saw emotion in you when you told me about that. That really tripped some wire in you. What was it about that that was emotional for you?
Diane: [00:09:18] It wasn't just rhetoric. I have seen so much rhetoric. We're saying, "Oh yes, we want a healthy populace, a healthy worksite wellness through insurance companies" and I do work for them. And yes, the health education is an important component of it. But it tripped the feeling that I finally reached leaders, leaders that really were going to do something about it and help me to do something about it. Because you're on the other side, it's not just government. As I said in this corporate wellness summit here at MINDBODY on Monday, I spoke about we're still waiting for the release of Healthy People 2010.
Blake: [00:09:51] And It's 2018 as we sit here today.
Diane: [00:09:55] Correct.
Blake: [00:09:55] So now we're eight years behind waiting for something that was supposed to be released in 2010.
Diane: [00:10:00] There hasn't been a decennial review of our physical activity recommendations. Things just languish.
Blake: [00:10:07] Before we get into the detail, will you lay out the ecosystem for me of what this looks like? You're a lobbyist.
Diane: [00:10:13] Yes, an advocate lobbyist.
Blake: [00:10:15] An advocate lobbyist.
Diane: [00:10:16] Some is paid and some I do from my heart as my service to my country.
Blake: [00:10:20] You're such a beautiful person. What does your world look like? What is your playing field look like?
Diane: [00:10:26] Right now, my playing field has gone from the state of New York which is where I started working on The Act of New York State and we were going to roll that template out which was very successful at reducing health care costs with the state health departments to all the states of our union. And, again, lack of funding lack of initiative, lack of leadership. Things tended again, the word I used is languish. Everyone means well, Blake. They don't mean to let these things go. It's just time and resources and it's always the same thing.
Blake: [00:11:01] Priority.
Diane: [00:11:01] Priorities. Exactly. And, you know, no judgment. I don't judge people. I just do not teach from fear. I don't judge. I just leave myself open to say I need help and I want people to come around me and join me in this. So, to answer your question, it went right from the State Department and then different mentors who met me said, "You need to come down to Washington, you need to learn the lay of the land down in Washington D.C." and that was under the first Bush administration. So we connected with the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition and I am now president and executive director of the National Association for Health and Fitness which comes under the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
Blake: [00:11:44] And this is a government agency? This is funded by government?
Diane: [00:11:46] This is membership driven. We do get some resources from the government but we haven't had any in a while. We haven't had any funding in a while.
Diane: [00:11:54] What you know...
Diane: [00:11:54] We don't know what direction this new council will take. We're not sure. It's very difficult when administrations change, there's a lag effect and when private sector, you can't. This is the bottom dollar, for the shareholders, for your members for your clients. You have to produce and it's so difficult to get that across. There's no sense of urgency about any of this.
Blake: [00:12:15] And this is infectious about you, I have to say, is your sense of urgency and your sense of passion around these topics. You're a firebrand. You know I saw you get up in front of a room and everybody I think fell in love with you within the first five minutes of you being up there.
Diane: [00:12:28] How nice of you to say that.
Blake: [00:12:29] It's true and it's just it's your energy and it's your passion. You just have this well of enthusiasm. Where does that come from? Why do you care so much? Why are you so motivated?
Diane: [00:12:40] Well I'm of an age where you could not go into the military unless you were a nurse, when I got out of college. So it goes back away. So I really felt that this was the way I needed to serve my country and also because fitness and wellness changed my health personally. So when you're a born again when it comes to your own health you want to drive this to people. So being a fitness instructor for a number of years and concurrently still teaches Pilates, you can reach so many people but then you realize that if you create legislation, if you get the Clean Indoor Air Act passed, then people can not die like my dad did of Cardiovascular disease. So you don't want anyone else to die that way.
Blake: [00:13:26] Your father died of cardiovascular disease and that was one of the motivators for you.
Diane: [00:13:29] He said to me, "Don't let anyone else die that way." But I was already into it, into fitness before then. So I just found this avenue through the health department, through Washington, and I've been respected down there through six presidents. I'm not political. I Am there for the citizens of this greatest country on the planet.
Blake: [00:13:49] So what was the act called that got rid of indoor smoking?
Diane: [00:13:52] The Clean Indoor Air Act.
Blake: [00:13:53] The Clean Indoor Air Act. Now was the Clean Indoor Air Act already on the table when your father passed away?
Diane: [00:13:59] No.
Blake: [00:14:00] Take us from your father passing away and what he said to you to your involvement in the Indoor...
Diane: [00:14:05] At that point you could still smoke in hospitals. Doctors smoked so smoking was an accepted part of society.
Blake: [00:14:12] Around what year?
Diane: [00:14:15] 1976. We passed the Clean Indoor Air Act in 1964. However, the states didn't adopt it see...
Blake: [00:14:22] Wait, back up the train.
Diane: [00:14:24] Yeah.
Blake: [00:14:24] We passed the Indoor Clean Air Act in 1964 and that said that people could not smoke indoors?
Diane: [00:14:31] Yeah and it wasn't until 2003 to 2006 when the states adopted this regulation because the states have states rights and the government can pass these laws but then the states can say well this is how we're going to adopt it. So it's a great system but sometimes it doesn't work to the advantage.
Blake: [00:14:50] When your father died, it was just sitting there and everybody was smoking in hospitals and restaurants and airplanes.
Diane: [00:14:55] And people forget about that, forget how recent that was, right up to like I said 2006. Nevada was the last state. Ireland was the first country that adopted the Clean Indoor Act. They were way ahead of the United States of America realizing that in 64 is when the surgeon general came out with the suggestion they put the notice on the packs of cigarettes that you can die from this which everyone ignored and fighting the tobacco wars, we called it, for 12 years is what it took to win the lawsuits over the tobacco companies to say that they had to pay the states, reimburse the states for the medical costs that were a result. Because we're a free market enterprise, we're a result of these cigarettes that they were disseminating. You have a right in our country to have any kind of business you want but if you're going to do harm and it's going to cost the taxpayer or the insurance companies that money you've got to pay back.
Blake: [00:15:48] You've got to pay it back.
Diane: [00:15:48] I'm going to take a breath. I'm sorry.
Blake: [00:15:51] That's okay.
Diane: [00:15:51] Keep talking.
Blake: [00:15:51] That's okay. Let’s, yeah, let's take a collective breath.
Blake: [00:15:57] It's one of the things I love about you is you don't really breathe. You just, you know, I think you take one deep breath and then there's about just five minutes of passion that comes straight out of you. It's delightful. It really is infectious. I can see why you've done so well as a lobbyist and why you were, as a matter of fact, awarded the...
Diane: [00:16:16] Lifetime Achievement award by President Obama. And it's through the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Health. And Drew Brees was there, many Olympic athletes, and they had a nice ceremony for me in the morning and I received this beautiful crystal award. And I love that. And then I was inducted into a National Fitness Hall of Fame not because of my ability with sports and fitness. Actually I went to private schools that didn't have gym. So how someone can go from not even having a gym class ever in their life to being the president of the National Association for Health and Fitness just speaks to the realization that how this has changed my life. But yes, the Hall of Fame and they said, "Oh, what sport?" when I met all these people that were in sports and they were getting inducted.
Blake: [00:17:02] Sure.
Diane: [00:17:02] I was like, "No, that would be public policy."
Blake: [00:17:05] So Drew Brees was getting inducted the same time.
Diane: [00:17:08] Yeah.
Blake: [00:17:08] Oh, so that was your class.
Diane: [00:17:09] Yeah, the class, right. And actually, Jack Lalanne's wife was also...
Blake: [00:17:14] Elaine Lalanne.
Diane: [00:17:16] Elaine Lalanne.
Blake: [00:17:16] She lives on the Central Coast, near us. In fact, our fitness center is the Jack and Elaine Lalanne Fitness Center.
Diane: [00:17:23] Her picture's with me on the front page of their website, the National Fitness Hall of Fame.
Blake: [00:17:27] No kidding.
Diane: [00:17:27] So meeting Elaine Lalanne and again they were looking for, "Did you do a video? Were you like Jane Fonda? What did you do?" and I was like, "No, public policy development." That I was into fitness, awarded into the Hall of Fame, they were aware that you can't be fit if you're having smoke in the rooms, you can't be fit if you don't have a calorie count on the menus, or if you don't have a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy so that you can convert these railroads that we're not using anymore into biking and hiking paths.
Blake: [00:17:53] I love how you just rattled those three things off as if you maybe didn't have that much to do with them. So take us through each of those and your participation in those and why those led to you receiving an honor from President Obama.
Diane: [00:18:03] Because people know that I can bring passion and when I talked about the advocacy model that we use for lobbying and advocacy it is very much one to one as we're sitting here today, Blake. People know that I'm good with people, I can make a cogent case because sometimes you only have 15 to 30 minutes when you meet with our respected elected officials. And maybe I'm not intimidated because basically, they work for me and I try to remind them that their job is not about getting reelected but doing good while they are in office because that's the principles of our founding fathers. I try to remind them of that. And I think because I am passionate about it. It hasn't decreased except for that temporary few months; I was lost there for a while. They know that I have this track record. So, oh, Diane Hart, okay.
Blake: [00:18:56] But tell us about the track record. Tell us about your involvement. You're one of the people responsible for getting rid of smoking in public places, in restaurants.
Diane: [00:19:03] So you go to the legislators and you get them to introduce a bill. It starts small and then you advocate, advocate, advocate. You say, "We need to sue the tobacco companies" and I will always say, "Well, that organization, we'll sue them" because you have a right as organizations to sue people who are doing bad things.
Blake: [00:19:20] And so this is what you're doing behind the scenes.
Diane: [00:19:23] Correct.
Blake: [00:19:23] And I imagine sometimes a pretty thankless job but you're behind the scenes pushing and who were your teammates in that? Who's funding that?
Diane: [00:19:29] The Sports Fitness Industry Association. They're doing a lot of work and part of their organization is the PGA. We have the National Association for Health and Fitness, my organization, so we group together, American College of Sports Medicine. So it's a pretty diverse group but we're all after the same thing.
Blake: [00:19:48] So you've got some teammates.
Diane: [00:19:49] Oh I do. You never do this alone. I would never say that I did any of this single-handedly but the connections I made in New York State, when Paul Tankel was a New York state legislator, I got the yes vote for PHIT down here because he walked in the room and he saw me and he said, "Whatever she wants, give her."
Blake: [00:20:06] Nice.
Diane: [00:20:07] The people to people connection, it's all about that.
Blake: [00:20:09] And I can see that that's why you're so successful in what you do because I can see that you make those human to human connections and your name is Diane Hart and your company name is Hart to Heart and it's so apropos because you clearly do come from the heart and that's where your enthusiasm comes from and your boundless energy comes from and I'm sure ultimately it's where your success comes from because it really comes from a good place it really comes from the heart. But taking on big tobacco that sounds a little bit scary. I might be worried about waking up and having a horse head on the pillow next to me.
Diane: [00:20:39] I have never received any threats. They don't like us. They don't like me. They didn't like the Tobacco Coalition that we formed in the different states to go forward with speaking to the governors and the legislators in the different states. So, as I said, you work statewide. You gain more support then you can go to Washington because it's all about votes. So they want the money, yes, people donate to their campaigns and their election funds and all that. I stay out of all that. What I can maybe promise them is that this will be really good and maybe we can guarantee you twenty or thirty thousand votes because the citizenry in our state really wants this legislation to pass to get tobacco out of our schools, get it out of our locations. So yes we had to sue them. They were called the Tobacco Wars. Huge lawsuits.
Blake: [00:21:28] How long did this battle go on?
Diane: [00:21:30] Over 12 years.
Blake: [00:21:31] 12 years you were fighting tobacco.
Diane: [00:21:33] And now we have to go back and refight because of e-cigarettes.
Blake: [00:21:37] Oh boy.
Diane: [00:21:37] And so now we have to go back to square one because the younger people don't think they're as damaging as real cigarettes so they're picking those up.
Blake: [00:21:46] What did it feel like to you, I mean, let's just celebrate the victory for a moment here over getting smoking out of bars and restaurants across America. What did that feel like to you, personally, when that finally made it through?
Diane: [00:21:59] When I walked into the first restaurant and people were like there's no smoking section I want to sit in the smoking section. And they said no no longer you have to smoke outside if you wanted to smoke outside. But I walked in and everything is open. There's no smoking or non-smoking section. And I went wow I did this I did it. I did what my dad asked me to do so that if people still wanted to, that's their personal choice, but I wasn't going to make it easy for you.
Blake: [00:22:24] But what did that feel like? A 12-year battle and to walk in and say wow this is me and to know that that's happening and tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of places across the country.
Diane: [00:22:33] We didn't even celebrate like our team didn't even celebrate. We just said what's the next thing on the agenda to make our civilization better? We need to go forward in health. Forward all the time, educating people, to know that the best way is the healthy way. Things will be for all people; we can't cure cancer yet and maybe you'll get some disease or have to have a surgery. But I know the fitter you are going into anything, whether be down on the Hill when I'm meeting with a congressman or a House of Representative person, the fitter you are, the better we're going to do. No matter what.
Blake: [00:23:07] Wow. So now you got smoking out of restaurants. Talk about Wellness Revolutionaries, by the way, I mean you know...
Diane: [00:23:13] There's so many of us out there. Many are leaving our field because of the lack of support that we're getting. Like with the government and with the different departments. Again, no judgment. I know what the congressional budget looks like, I have to look at that to get anything funded or any kind of movement. But I know when the private sector has now stepped up with the PHIT Act with a Sports Fitness Industry they represent a lot.
Blake: [00:23:37] I want to hear about the PHIT Act because I'm very excited about the PHIT Act. But I also, before we jump to that, getting smoking out to restaurants what was the next big victory? What was the next big cause?
Diane: [00:23:49] We watched it go across the states and we supported every state Coalition Against Tobacco. And then we made it legal in all the states. And that was the next big moment. But again we didn't celebrate because we knew we have to look at chronic disease. What's causing now that we're kind of done with smoking maybe we'll educate why are heart disease rates going up? So looking at chronic disease prevention and working with the health departments regarding that. How can we help you with that? So the next big thing after that was really just keeping that in place.
Blake: [00:24:24] How do you decide what that is? Is this a room full of people saying, "Okay, what do we go after next? This is the week or the month where we figure out where we're going to roll up our sleeves and maybe spend the next 10-15 years of our life battling." That's got to be a pretty interesting and intense conversation.
Diane: [00:24:39] Fabulous question and you began the Corporate Wellness Summit by saying, "We are sitting in this room and we're doing important things today." And I always say that we speak for the mirror. People are coalitions that people that want the health of America. But, conversely, there's another group of people sitting somewhere in the room that are saying we're going to put more sugar in things, we're going to put more salt in things because we want to generate more revenue, but at the expense of the military readiness of our country the health of our country there has to be a balance somehow because we are a free market enterprise that we need to balance that off between corporate responsibility and making a profit. Everyone needs to. And that's one point I do want to make about PHIT but we'll get there about what some of the legislators said to us when we stormed the Hill this past March. After 10 years we have introduced the PHIT Act for 10 years into Congress.
Blake: [00:25:29] This has been a decade long fight already.
Diane: [00:25:31] Decade. Again another 10 years. Now we got it through the House of Representatives and we got it out of ways and means into the House of Representatives because there's many steps. And now we have to get to the Senate and once that vote is done, the president can sign it into law.
Blake: [00:25:44] Okay, well will that happen if it gets to the president's desk? But what is the PHIT Act?
Diane: [00:25:48] The PHIT Act is called the Personal Health Investment Today for America.
Blake: [00:25:54] P-H-I-T.
Diane: [00:25:56] And the hashtag is #passPHIT. So, a number of organizations are working on this because it will change the Internal Revenue Service code to expand the items that can go under your flexible spending account with your insurance or your health savings accounts and will also be included in Medicare as well and the state branches of the Affordable Care Act.
Blake: [00:26:21] This is brilliant. I'm excited about this. So, for somebody who's working at a company that has an FSA, Flexible Spending Account, or a WSA, wellness savings account, where you could put pre-tax dollars, and right now, you can use pre-tax dollars to go to the doctor. The PHIT Act will let them use those pre-tax dollars to go to the gym, to go join a yoga studio, to go take Pilates classes and barre classes and get therapeutic massage, etc. Is that correct?
Diane: [00:26:45] That is correct. And we want to expand that but it's got to be something that's solely for the purpose of physical activity. So, if your child wants to play a sport, and now we know, P.E. is cut in many of the schools so the parents, it's pay-to-play for the parents who maybe can't afford the equipment for the child. Those would be able to come out of the...
Blake: [00:27:04] Brilliant. And most people pay 25-30 percent taxes. So, we're basically talking about lowering the cost of fitness engagement by about 25 to 30 percent for the people that need it the most.
Diane: [00:27:14] And changing culture. Wow. If this has come out of our country, hmmm, this might be a little important that I do this.
Blake: [00:27:22] Right.
Diane: [00:27:23] So those slow little steps, just like when we said, we passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, well this has got to be important if we can no longer smoke inside.
Blake: [00:27:30] And we have to have a cultural revolution around this. I mean we talk about this a lot at MINDBODY and we issued the MINDBODY challenge. One out of five, approximately one out of five, Americans are currently engaged in ongoing physical and wellness activities. We're trying to double that number to two out of five. So basically we want to go from 20 percent of Americans to 40 percent of Americans by 2027. So we think about that, 20 percent of Americans are actively engaged in fitness and wellness activities vis a vis gyms, you know, yoga studios, fitness studios, CrossFit, and so on. And I could see where this could just by itself increase those numbers because it makes it a little bit more affordable for people to do those things that are really cool now. Boutique fitness and wellness is what's cool now.
Diane: [00:28:13] Yes.
Blake: [00:28:13] I don't want to go to the gym and run on a treadmill, I want to go take a yoga class with my friends or co-workers, or a Pilates class, or a barre class, or CrossFit, or maybe an MMA class, a boxing class, and all those things, under the PHIT Act, would be able to be paid for with pre-tax dollars.
Diane: [00:28:28] And we did receive a little pushback from the legislators. Well it seems as though Diane you're here with your group from the sport fitness industry association. Or you know Nike, Nike helped promote this PHIT Act.
Blake: [00:28:41] Come on, guys.
Diane: [00:28:42] Yeah. They're like...
Blake: [00:28:42] Because it's a bad idea to let Americans use pre-tax dollars for health and fitness.
Diane: [00:28:46] Well okay. But you may lose you know revenue on the tax side but you're going to gain it with the health of people and this is going to be, excuse me, easily tracked because we can see what they write off on their HSAs and FSAs and on the tax return we can track and then we can show we're successful, go back, storm The Hill again and say we want more, more, more.
Blake: [00:29:06] Is Washington interested in lowering the cost of health care? Because there are some health care companies that are going to lose money on that if people are healthier.
Diane: [00:29:13] Absolutely. People will say to me all the time stop harassing legislation, will you, because it's affecting our bottom line. But in the way, I don't want people on medication. I want them to use lifestyle modification then if they still need the medication then, so be it.
Blake: [00:29:27] Of course.
Diane: [00:29:28] But the lifestyle modification has been left out of the equation.
Blake: [00:29:30] Well this is, this is a no brainer in terms of logic, in terms of fitness, but it's not such a no brainer when you have the health care industry that has, I don't know the size of the lobby of the health care industry, but I would imagine it's a bit of a David and Goliath battle between you and your group and fighting a lobby like the health care industry. So, are you going mano-a-mano?
Diane: [00:29:50] Short story. I was at a health fair for our National Association for Health and Fitness. It was a large gynecological health fair and I was at my table and I was giving away little American flags and prescription pads that I had developed, paper prescription pads, tear-off, that I was going to give to the physicians and the prescriptions said take a walk every single day for 30 minutes. The physician could hand it to them, not just type in the maybe real prescription for medication and hand this to them and say, "Look, I support walking. Do this." I was behind my table being my usual sweet self. I was approached by a pharmaceutical company that shall go nameless and they said look at you, Diane, and how cute you are. We've seen you around and you've got your American flags and you're all about walking and health and wellness and work for us and we'll have you driving in a Mercedes in a week. And I said, But I would have to sell my soul." And he looked at me and he just didn't know what to say because that's not my belief system. Yes, pharmacy plays an important part in helping people lead longer healthier lives, certainly, the cure for cancer will come from pharmacy or our government. But the day to day aches and pains, I know that you don't need medication for that. The mental stresses that we have can go away with all the adrenaline buildup in the brain with a quick 10-minute walk, you feel better. You Don't want to get the shoes on but then you do.
Blake: [00:31:10] Well I believe this. It's hard to get me to take a Tylenol and I'm with you I have no problem with drugs.
Diane: [00:31:17] No.
Blake: [00:31:17] I just think it should be a last resort. I think nature probably gives us most everything we need to be healthy, most of the time. So I always say yeah if you think you've got ADD and somebody wants to give you a prescription amphetamine, maybe you should try doing cardio five times a week. Maybe You should try meditation. Maybe you should try all of these other things before you just start popping pills to solve the problem. And if you try these other things and they don't work or there's some compelling reason for those things don't fit into your life.
Diane: [00:31:46] Totally agree.
Blake: [00:31:46] Okay. But to just have the default choice to just be medication.
Diane: [00:31:50] And I've asked physicians, why is this? "Well we know people won't do what you're suggesting." But why not give them six months? And I found out, that's really protocol for the American Medical Society to give people six months of lifestyle intervention before they put the hammer down on the medication but they don't because it's just easier. People find it easier to do that, Blake. So, and it's just the human condition and it's our job to have this revolution.
Blake: [00:32:15] It is.
Diane: [00:32:16] So that people realize that they're really in charge of their health.
Blake: [00:32:19] Right. So much of it really is about education and awareness, isn't it?
Diane: [00:32:22] And me passing laws, I guess.
Blake: [00:32:24] And you passing laws. Diane Hart out there, taking on the man and passing laws like the PHIT Act. Answer a question for me: At my company, we give our employees sixty-five dollars a month to go out and use for their own health and wellness care. It's cost-sharing for fitness and wellness activities, which is something we want to promote to companies across America. Would that be pre-tax money for us as a company under the PHIT Act?
Diane: [00:32:52] This is the implementation phase that we need to go through right after the midterm elections in November. We're going to know who's who on the lineup of who's going to vote. We know it's going to be passed, it's just a matter of coming up for a vote. And I encourage people to know the truth about our country by watching C-SPAN which I try to make exciting for people. It's not. But if you want to know what's really going on, take 30 minutes a week and just view C-SPAN. Check it out, see what they're saying, see what your legislators are saying about the money that you entrust them with. So, to get back to PHIT, when it comes to the implementation, we have a lot to work on because the government is on the calendar, January to December, fiscal year. A lot of corporations and companies are not. So, is it going to be retroactive? Is it going to be, like, if you choose to give this money to your employees, is this going to be pretax dollars or...
Blake: [00:33:44] That's the $64,000 question for me as a company, as a corporation.
Blake: [00:33:48] Right.
Diane: [00:33:48] Can I give my employees 50 bucks a month and can that be pre-tax for me as a company?
Diane: [00:33:53] And that's what we want. That's what's on the table.
Blake: [00:33:56] Okay, so as an employer and as an employee, we can each contribute pre-tax dollars to...
Diane: [00:34:02] Health and wellness.
Blake: [00:34:02] To health and wellness of that individual. That is brilliant. I have a dream. I have a dream about this. I really think that this could make a huge cultural impact because if we can get companies to put pre-tax dollars into wellness savings account on behalf of an employee and we can get the employee to put it in, the way I see this math is, the employee puts in let's say 50 dollars a month pre-tax what would they have gotten on their paycheck maybe 30 dollars. So, it effectively costs them 30 dollars and they get 50 dollars worth of wellness services for it. You get an employer matching that effectively putting in 50 dollars a month for their employees, as well, and it's pre-tax for them because we don't want to hopefully penalize the corporation by trying to do the right thing. That's 100 dollars now that that employee has to spend on their wellness and it only costs them 30. And now what we see out there is that what's really cool is boutique fitness, as I said, people don't necessarily want to go to the gym and run on the treadmill. A lot of them want to go with their friends and take a Pilates class, or a barre class, or a CrossFit class, or a yoga class; it's cool but it can be a little cost prohibitive. What I know, because I know exactly what the math looks like at these little mom and pop studios, which most of them are is that that hundred dollars a month, most of them would gladly take as an unlimited monthly membership, if they were in-network providers, let's say. And we say to those businesses, look if you'll be in a network provider we're going to send everybody over from your local companies to come to your studios but you have to give them a membership for a hundred dollars a month. That math looks very attractive to these small businesses. And now you've got people, as part of corporate wellness, putting 30 bucks a month and now they get to belong to these really cool boutique wellness and fitness studios in their neighborhood.
Diane: [00:35:47] Can't beat that. That's a win-win.
Blake: [00:35:53] Yes, it is a win-win and I'm going to keep fighting for it until it's won. There, in my opinion, is a gigantic opportunity in the realm of employee wellness and corporate wellness right now. It's one of my side passions because I don't think we will have a real Wellness Revolution without a revolution in the way employee wellness programs are run. America needs employee wellness programs that actually work and work well. My joke is they need a queer eye makeover and that's happening. There's so much to this and it's a great topic for a future show because there are leaders and companies doing amazing things in this area and I want to illuminate and support those people. And this all ties back to the PHIT Act because we need pre-tax wellness dollars to fuel this. I'll give you the latest update on the PHIT Act at the end of this show. Hint: We need your voice.
Diane: [00:36:51] It's a dream and this is why I hope this passes and I had a couple of questions on actually the implementation part which refocused me on working with the coalition. I have a conference call tomorrow with the Sports Fitness Industry that's leading our coalition of the 50 groups. So, we need to focus on this because now you know we're trying to get this passed we're so, you get really into getting it passed, getting it passed, we forget what is it going to look like? How is it going to work, exactly?
Blake: [00:37:19] The devil's in the details.
Diane: [00:37:20] The details.
Blake: [00:37:20] And as I like to say God is in the details too.
Diane: [00:37:22] And then how do we roll out the public service announcements so that this can happen, so that Americans are aware of this?
Blake: [00:37:27] Diane, it's huge what you do. You make such a cultural impact. It's so huge and I feel like it's left up to a relatively small band of people that are, you know, with a relatively small amount of money to do these things that are so important to our culture. I mean, in terms of being a Wellness Revolutionary, is there something we need to do as a culture here to just empower, to bring more money, and more resources and support to the kind of good work that you and your team are doing in the world?
Diane: [00:37:56] When we talked on Monday about the missed opportunities, financial opportunities, that companies could have if their employees had more presenteeism on the job, that if they focused more because they had a good night's sleep because you access the REM state quicker when you're active. We all know all these things, you have to be in a cave if you don't know all the benefits today of physical activity, but energizing the private sector because, going back to the very beginning of our conversation, the public sector takes so long and now we have to figure out how all this is going to work in with the tax code. Yeah, I mean we'll get it done. We will get it done, I'm convinced of it. But thank you for saying. People think of lobbying as a big, big people going in with big companies like tobacco, like the AMA. They forget that there's people like us fighting for the average citizen.
Blake: [00:38:43] And this is where we need to really energize our coalition. You know, we have 50,000+ customers around the world, who employ about 400,000 service providers and wellness practitioners, who service over 40 million consumers. I mean that network actually exists. You know it's not an easy task to figure out how to really connect with and motivate those people. Although we are doing some of that with MINDBODY One, which is a peer network specifically for the people that run these boutique fitness and wellness businesses, so they can connect on things like this because I guarantee you if they knew about this and that they needed to be supporting it and writing and calling and that the people that worked for them and the people that walk in their doors knew about it, we could really help shift the tide. That's pretty powerful.
Diane: [00:39:29] Powerful.
Blake: [00:39:31] Group of human beings out there. So, we've got to figure out how we can continually, as we move forward, figure out how to leverage all that power and energy that's out there right now.
Diane: [00:39:38] And I'm almost embarrassed when people ask me what I need because I don't know what to say because I don't want to seem like you're needy because I am successful. But the resources, there's a need for the resource.
Blake: [00:39:48] Yeah.
Diane: [00:39:49] So when people ask me I'm just like, "Well you could give me, like, lunch." How about lunch? Let's start at a bottle of water...
Blake: [00:39:55] Anyone listening, we want you to find Diane Hart in Washington and buy her lunch. So in wrapping up here, it's such a pleasure having you out here. It was such a delight getting to meet you in person and just getting to hear you speak. Thank you so much for the work that you do. You are a true Wellness Revolutionary. You are inspiring to me and I know you're inspiring to so many people out there and I don't know if you hear this or get this a lot but I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work that you do, for the good work that you're doing in the world.
Diane: [00:40:28] For the first time, in a long time, I feel valued. I feel valued because I accomplished things that are good and wholesome for America because I want my country to succeed on all parts but just valued because you cared enough to bring me here and to have me spread my message. You don't have an opportunity to do that very often.
Blake: [00:40:46] We value you, we love you, we support you, and we need your lead.
Diane: [00:40:52] I'm there for you. One hundred and ten percent or more like to the tenth power. Let's put it that way.
Blake: [00:40:58] Thank you, Diane. It's a real pleasure being on this journey with you.
Diane: [00:41:01] Thank you very much, Blake.
Blake: [00:41:16] As I mentioned, this episode with Diane Hart was taped in September of 2018 at the MINDBODY BOLD Conference and I do have some updates for you. I did go to Washington D.C. to advocate for the PHIT Act and I did not buy Diane Hart lunch but I did buy her dinner, twice. So I think we made good on that request. And here's a little fine print on the PHIT Act. If you retain one thing from this show, this should be it: PHIT, again P-H-I-T which stands for the Personal Health Investment Today Act is a bill that would change a line in the IRS tax code that would allow Americans to use pre-tax dollars, through our health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, for preventative health care in the form of fitness classes and services. This is such a no brainer to me. Currently we can use pre-tax dollars through our HSA or FSA to pay for doctor’s visits and drugs once we are already sick but we can't use those same pre-tax dollars to keep ourselves from getting sick in the first place. This is absurd. We know that a regular exercise routine reduces hypertension, cardiovascular disease, improves the immune system, etc., etc. We know all this; the science is in. Exercise equals healthier people, fewer doctor’s visits, fewer prescription drugs. So why on earth can workers not use pre-tax dollars through their HSA as an FSA to pay for exercise classes and equipment? Because it's currently not allowed. Only reactive healthcare costs are allowed currently and not proactive care costs. And the PHIT Act would change that, and with your help, it will change it when we get it passed this year.
So, get this, in 2018 the PHIT Act passed through the House of Representatives, it went to the Senate, it was included in a larger bill at the end of the year, where an expert on this issue told me there was a 100 percent chance it would have passed, and then the government shutdown happened. A new Congress came in in 2019 and it's back to the drawing board with the PHIT Act after 10 years of trying. Here's why the PHIT Act is so important to me, it's an important bill, yes, and it's not necessarily the be all end all but it's a focal point and illustrates where we are with our collective political will in terms of the Wellness Revolution and, in 2019, I really think it could be a lightning rod issue. It gives us, and by us I mean all of us out there who are passionate about creating a culture of wellness in America, it gives us something tangible to come together on. This could be the start of an influential wellness lobby in Washington. So if you are committed to the Wellness Revolution, the PHIT Act is one of the major battles for 2019, both for its substance and also for its symbolism. You can learn more about the act at phitamerica.org.
[00:44:15] A big thank you to Diane Hart, National Fitness Hall of Fame inductee and president of the National Association of Health and Fitness.
[00:44:23] Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. Please, please rate and review us so other revolutionaries can find and join us on this journey and if you like this episode you probably know someone else who might enjoy it, so please share it. Pass it on.
[00:44:41] Thanks to Jonny Lang for his song "Make it Move" and to the podcast team: Shelly Northrop Meredith Simmons, and Lauren McAlister. And, last but not least, I'd like to thank my producer Brent Pearson. Of course, I appreciate you taking the time to listen.
[00:44:58] I'm Blake Beltram. The revolution is on. I'll see you next time.
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