A Visit with Gov. Mike Huckabee: The Healthy America Initiative

By February 27, 2006General

Sorry it took us ’til today to report on our visit on Friday with the very engaging Arkansas Governor — and National Governors’ Association Chair — Mike Huckabee. We got so caught up in the Pi contest that we got a little distracted. Sorry.

To begin, he is a very engaging and sincere guy. Sitting in a small room with him along with a handful of other bloggers, it was easy to forget that you were talking to a Governor and possible Presidential candidate. He is a bass guitarist, has a band that plays classic rock (there is no other real music after all) and knows his stuff when it comes to music and rock and roll facts and trivia. His passion for that topic is as palpable as his passion for health care and heath issues. By the way, he and his wife both hail from Hope, Arkansas, although unlike Bill Clinton, he was actually born in Hope as well.

Huckabee is most recently famous for dropping over 100 lbs. His book, “Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork“, chronicles his personal journey and lays out a program for emulating his success. For him, the day of reckoning came when he met with his doctor, who told him he had Type II diabetes and would likely die within 10 years. As Huckabee tells it, the doctor went on to describe in grim detail what those ten years might look like for him. It was then he realized he had control over this and resolved to do something about it.

But to say he is most famous for this is to sell him a bit short. This personal journey has led him to a passion about issues of health writ large — admittedly a huge public policy issue for the US — as well as to solutions which balance the role of government with personal responsibility. He is in town for the National Governors’ Association meeting where they will focus on his Healthy America Initiative. ( And click here for a copy of the agenda for this week’s meeting).

He talked about past health issues like smoking, the use of seat belts and drunk driving. In all cases, we changed the public attitude through a mix of education and enforcement. The same must happen with eating and obesity. Asked about the recent lawsuit against Nickelodeon for advertising what some parents claim isn’t “healthy food”, Huckabee says “where we don’t begin is in the courtroom”, adding that people must be educated, but we must give them the right to make choices. “My extra 110 lbs. was my own fault”, he says unflinchingly, “I made bad choices.” In addition to the personal responsibility, he says we need to make sure people have good information and that there are incentives to good health. In Arkansas, they did a body mass index of every child in Arkansas public schools, grades K-12. Knowing the facts is a great first step, as he says. They have provided the tools for state employees to quit smoking and have paid for health screenings as well. And, state Medicaid recipients get the same incentives as the state employees., In the end, says Huckabee, the result will be a healthier state, with ultimately lower health care costs.

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