May 14, 2014

Udall Welcomes Dr. Oz's Endorsement of PHYSICAL Act to Promote Health & PE in Schools

Udall asks N.M. communities, school leaders to share best practices in health & wellness

WASHINGTON - Today U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) welcomed an endorsement by Dr. Mehmet Oz, vice-chairman and professor of surgery at Columbia University, co-founder of HealthCorps and host of the Emmy Award-winning television program "The Dr. Oz Show," of Udall's legislation aimed at increasing access to effective health and physical education (PE) programs in schools across the country. As part of his efforts to pass the PHYSICAL Act, Udall is also asking communities in New Mexico to share stories of how they're using health education and PE to encourage an exchange of innovative ideas among local school districts.

As public school officials work to meet academic standards and outcomes to maintain funding and as states struggle with budget challenges, subjects like health and PE risk being scaled back or eliminated. The Promoting Health for Youth Skills in Classrooms and Life (PHYSICAL) Act would designate these subjects as eligible for Title I and II funding, using existing federal dollars to expand health and PE throughout school districts. This could include dedicating weekly physical activities, enhancing classroom instruction or developing creative health programming, as well as purchasing needed instructional materials and supporting teacher training. Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) has introduced a House companion bill, H.R.2160.

"The PHYSICAL Act is an important first step toward ensuring that health education and physical education are a part of every student's school day," Dr. Oz said. "I applaud Senator Tom Udall and Representative Marcia Fudge for introducing it, and their colleagues that have supported the legislation. I hope others will join them and push until we see bill's language included in federal education law. The childhood obesity epidemic is real, and schools deserve the necessary tools to combat it."

"I'm grateful for Dr. Oz's support of our efforts to boost health and PE programs in our schools," Udall said. "As one of America's most trusted health experts, he understands the importance of physical activity and health education resources in helping students lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. I thank Dr. Oz for his support and look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to make sure the PHYSICAL Act is included in any debate about the future of our country's education policies."

To further illustrate how designating health and PE as "core" subjects can help empower local school districts to improve health and well-being in their communities, Udall is asking New Mexico educators and others to get involved. Teachers, principals, health practitioners, students and organizations associated with physical education and health education in New Mexico schools are invited to visit Udall's website at tomudall.senate.gov/physical and share their stories about how they're integrating health education and physical activity to improve overall wellness and academic achievement.

"Improving child well-being and lowering obesity rates is a shared challenge that requires shared solutions," Udall added. "While we still have a long way to go, this challenge is being met by hard-working, creative people who are making a difference in our communities every day. The PHYSICAL Act is all about empowering local school districts, and I want to share their creativity to inspire others to develop activities that work best for them. I hope teachers, health practitioners, students, parents and others involved in education will join me in this effort to share successful programs that are easy for schools to implement, fun for students and good for our health."

A longtime advocate for health and wellness, Udall has visited schools and communities across the state to discuss strategies to combat high obesity rates and improve child well-being. In Grants, the senator visited Mesa View Elementary School to hear how the community is promoting health and wellness education and congratulated students for their achievement in the national "Walk and Roll to School" day. After first introducing the PHYSICAL Act in 2011, Udall visited Healthy Kids Las Cruces at Conlee Elementary to hear more about their efforts to improve wellness.

The PHYSICAL Act, which would not require any additional funding, would use existing federal dollars to expand health and PE activities. This could include enhancing classroom instruction or developing creative health programming, as well as purchasing needed instructional materials and supporting teacher training.

Udall introduced the Senate bill in 2013 with the backing more than 75 health organizations, including the New Mexico Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance and the Society for Public Health Education.

A copy of S. 392, the PHYSICAL Act, can be accessed HERE.