"Jack LaLanne Day" entry for the CSIS Smart Global Health Essay Contest

The Center for Strategic & International Studies held an essay contest in Oct-Nov 2009 to solicit ideas to improve global health, described in more detail here. Below is the essay submitted on 20 Nov 2009 on behalf of Jack LaLanne Day, written by Steve Trutane, founder of JLLDay.org.

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    I propose to designate September 26th as "Jack LaLanne Day" and to internationally promote this as a day when we all vow to do something positive for our own health. Jack LaLalanne has achieved world-wide acclaim as the "godfather of fitness" and as an inspirational fitness guru from his long-running television show, his tireless promotion of healthy habits, and his amazing "feats of strength", traditionally on his birthday on September 26th. Jack now amazes us with his enduring feat as a model of vibrant aging, maintaining an active, fit lifestyle well into his 90's.[1]

    Global health would be well-served by motivating individuals to take responsibility for improving their own health through better physical fitness and nutrition -- a central element of Jack's message. The World Health Organization reported in 2008 that causes of death globally are increasingly shifting from infectious diseases to noncommunicable disease such as heart disease and stroke which are often associated with a Western lifestyle,[2] also noted in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010.[3] Even low-income countries are seeing marked increases in obesity,[4] diabetes, asthma, and diseases attributable to tobacco use. These are just the sort of ailments that Jack LaLanne's philosophy targets, and it does so using low-cost, low-tech, well-established approaches that are known work well to prevent or lessen the impact of many of these major chronic health conditions. Jack LaLanne's recognition and reputation make him ideally suited to a role as a world-wide fitness motivator, combating the rise of these growing health risks.

    The kind of commitment that Jack encourages us to make in our own health could have other positive repercussions for global health. As people start taking better care of their physical fitness and improve the quality of the food they consume, they will be less likely to engage in negative health habits and will be more aware of their own health in general. This attitude could make them more likely to take preventative actions, catch conditions early and minimize adverse effects of a variety of diseases. By encouragement of an increased personal investment in health at an individual, grassroots level, Jack LaLanne Day will help reduce mortality from chronic lifestyle diseases and help reduce the burden of skyrocketing healthcare costs due to the growing epidemic of lifestyle-based health conditions.

    TeamHuman.org celebrated the first Jack LaLanne Day on Jack's 95th birthday, 26 September 2009, by inviting everyone to do something positive for their health as a birthday gift for Jack and to demonstrate a commitment to take charge of their own fitness and nutrition. A free "group feat of strength" bike ride was organized in the San Francisco Bay Area and people elsewhere were encouraged to do something on their own or in a local group related to improved fitness or nutrition.[5]

    Jack performed his world-renowned feats of strength on his birthday as a way to demonstrate his athleticism and to show the world that anything is possible if you set your mind and body to it. Jack has just the sort of iconic recognition needed to help inspire the rest of us to rise to the challenge of doing the "hard work of living" and improve our physical health. Just as Jack's feats were created by his own imagination, Jack LaLanne Day will encourage participants to do a feat of their own choosing that is appropriate and challenging given their personal state of health.

    Any prize money received for this proposal will go towards promoting Jack LaLanne Day internationally as a not-for-profit endeavor and support the organizing of local group feats of strength activities on that day. Jack LaLanne Day will provide annual motivation and camaraderie to help all of us maintain our personal commitment to our own health.


[1] Jack LaLanne, Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_LaLanne

[2] Chronic diseases top causes of deaths globally: WHO. Reuters. 20 May 2008. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSL2024589920080520

[3] Global Noncommunicable Diseases — Where Worlds Meet. New England Journal of Medicine. 15 Sep 2010. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1002024

[4] Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 23 Sep 2010. http://www.oecd.org/document/31/0,3343,en_2649_33929_45999775_1_1_1_37407,00.html

[5] Jack LaLanne Day. http://JLLDay.org