Governors Focus on Health
National Governors Association Healthy America Forum and Winter Meeting
Washington, DC,  February 25-28, 2006
More than forty of the nation's governors gathered in Washington, DC for the National Governors Association's Healthy America forum and winter meeting. 

As part of NGA Chairman Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R-AR) Healthy America initiative, the governors participated in a two-day forum during which figures ranging from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) to Sesame Street's Elmo and Rosita to former President Bill Clinton discussed ideas to improve Americans' health.  Governors heard sobering facts about an epidemic of obesity, but they also learned how various sectors of society are beginning to address the problem.  As Huckabee, who himself lost 110 pounds, sees it, the core issue is really health rather than health care.  Encouraging people to adopt healthy lifestyles is the best way to curtail the spiralling health care costs that are undercutting American competitiveness.  Huckabee states, "The economic advantage of this is staggering...  This is not just about feeling good and living longer.  This is literally about being able for our economy to survive."  He argues that as more people assume responsibility for their own personal habits and behaviors a cultural shift will occur, just as has happened with seat-belt usage or littering.  In essence Huckabee favors a carrot rather than a stick approach.  He believes government can play a limited but important role, focusing on education and incentives to encourage people toward healthy behavior rather than mandates.

The meeting drew as many as a thousand people including staffers, corporate fellows, guests, presenters, security personnel, and media.  The governors met with President Bush at the White House, and the National Guard was a significant topic of discussion.  The governors also held committee meetings and attended regional gatherings. 

Currently Republicans hold 28 governorships to 22 for the Democrats.  Eight of the 50 governors are women; one is Hispanic.  The longest serving governor is George Pataki (R-NY), first elected in 1994; he was recovering from an appendectomy and could not attend this meeting.  The newest governors are Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ), both elected in 2005.

Many of the governors are looking toward November, when there will be governors' races in 36 states -- 14 held by Democrats and 22 by Republicans.  Nine governors are term-limited or retiring in 2006.  At least five current governors are seen as possible 2008 presidential candidates: Republicans Huckabee (AR), Pataki (NY), Romney (MA) and Democrats Richardson (NM) and Vilsack (IA).

NGA Chair Gov. Mike Huckabee's Blog Roundtable, Feb. 24

Healthy America 5K Fun Run/Walk, Feb. 25
Opening News Conference, Feb. 25
Plenary Session "Creating Healthy States," Feb. 25

Working Luncheon, Feb. 26
Plenary Session "A Culture of Wellness," Feb. 26

Press Availability, Feb. 27
Committee Meetings, Feb. 27

Western Governors' Association meeting, Feb. 28
Former President Bill Clinton Keynote at Final Plenary, Feb. 28
Closing News Conference, Feb. 28

Phil Bredesen (D-TN)
Jeb Bush (R-FL)
Dave Freudenthal (D-WY)
Jennifer Granholm (D-MI)
Christine Gregoire (D-WA)
Linda Lingle (R-HI)
Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID)
Bill Richardson (D-NM)
Bob Riley (R-AL)
Mitt Romney (R-MA)
Mark Sanford (R-SC)
Tom Vilsack (D-IA)

Natonal Governors Association
Copyright ©  2006  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action