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by Mike Huckabee, AARP The Magazine, August 20, 2009
In 2003, on a routine visit to his doctor, Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas got some bad news: if he didn't dramatically change his lifestyle, he could die within ten years. Desperately overweight and diabetic, the former Southern Baptist preacher began a diet-and-exercise program that led to a 110-pound weight loss and a new mission in life—helping others get healthy. The first priority? Raising public awareness of the link between obesity and health problems in a state where 61 percent of the adult citizenry are overweight. Huckabee created Healthy Arkansas, a comprehensive effort to get Arkansans to eat better, exercise more, and stop smoking. Among his more innovative initiatives: offering smoking-cessation classes to Medicaid recipients, giving state workers $240 reductions in their annual health insurance premiums for participating in self-health assessments, and testing the body mass index of every schoolchild. Thanks to Huckabee, Arkansas is now the only state to use every cent of tobacco-settlement money—$223 million since 2003—for health programs. Huckabee, 50, the current chairman of the National Governors Association, recently launched a yearlong Healthy America agenda. The goal: change people's habits through education and awareness. "If we eat healthy, exercise, and don't smoke, we can add 13 healthy years to our lives," he says. "The key thing is not just living longer but living better."
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.
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