Home Good Guys Spa and Wellness Leaders Take Their Message of “Health & Wellbeing for All” to the Hill

Spa and Wellness Leaders Take Their Message of “Health & Wellbeing for All” to the Hill

by Jane Summerfield

Last updated on February 1st, 2021 at 06:00 pm

Covered in scaffolding, the Capitol dome rose above our group as we stopped for a photo op before hurrying on to our first meetings on The Hill.

The metaphor of the magnificent 216-year-old dome’s renovation was not lost on our delegation.

Our small group of dedicated activists hoped to do some of our own strengthening of numerous wellness-oriented bills now working their way through Congress.

Each of us had a connection with the U.S. spa industry, and all of us had participated in the 6th-annual Washington Spa Alliance the day before (Tuesday, March 22, at the National Press Club).

With our wellness-themed legislative agenda in hand, we filed into the Senate Hart Building, and the House Rayburn and Longworth buildings, to personally ask leaders in Congress for their support of legislation focusing on ways to prevent national health concerns and full-blown catastrophes—such as the Type 2 diabetes epidemic that affects millions of Americans today.

Damon Watson-Cory of Wellness Warrior briefs delegates who include; Austin Song of Austin Song of Gharieni Group (back to camera), Rose Fernandez, G.M of Jurlique North America, Paula Lucido of Jurlique, and at right Syvia Sepielli of SPAd and Susie Susie Ellis, Chairman & CEO of Global Wellness. Photo by Paul Schmidt

The day was an initiative of Wellness Warrior and the Washington Spa Alliance and was a joint effort with the leadership of the Green Spa Network, International Spa Association (ISPA), and Global Wellness Institute. We packed our schedule with 10 meetings and received hearty, cordial receptions from all of the congressional offices visited. Our hopes were bolstered!

This was the second year health and fitness leaders have made the rounds of Congressional leaders (read more about that day in 2015 here). Once again, we discussed key issues and briefed a handful of elected officials and their staffs on the impact that the $15-billion-per-year, 350,000+ employee spa industry could potentially have on certain initiatives. We all shared the desire to expand the “timeless truths of spa” beyond the walls of treatment rooms and out to the rest of our country.

As Mary Bemis wrote in Insider’s Guide to Spa after the 5th Annual WSPA symposium and 1st annual Day on the Hill last year:

I’m happy to report that every single regional spa leader enthusiastically embraced the invitation to gather together for this historic first to determine how we can work together and really put some muscle behind spa awareness. Now, more than ever, we need to join forces—not only to raise spa awareness in our country—but to affect policy.”

This year, the group presented Congressional leaders with a list of 17 wellness-oriented bills currently languishing in Congress.

To the authors of these bills, we asked for updates as well as strategies for giving these bills more support.

To those who did not author those bills, we asked members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors so that the bills will go to the floors of the House and the Senate for a vote.

Other American economic sectors and industries have made known their sensibilities and priorities; finally, now, the spa community has come of age and joined the national conversation. This conviction was reiterated by Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic:

Americans increasingly turn to the spa community to learn about diet and exercise, the benefits of plant-based diets, to re-define ideas of beauty and well-being, and to learn techniques of mindfulness and preventive medicine.” 

A full list of the legislative agenda is below.

We encourage you to explore each bill at www.congress.gov, or simply click on the link provided to learn more.

The group had in-depth conversations about each of these bills and learned invaluable information about their status, their sticking points, and what we can all do to support them.

Spa and wellness leaders come together…

Left to right, top to bottom: Deborah Szekely, Founder, Wellness Warrior, Co-founder Rancho La Puerta, Founder Golden Door; Lynne McNees, President of International Spa Association (ISPA); Susie Ellis, Chairman & CEO at Global Wellness Institute and Global Wellness Summit; Paul Schmidt, Executive Director of Green Spa Network (GSN); Mary-Elizabeth Gifford, Co-founder and Chair, Washington Spa Alliance (WSPA), Senior Advisor and Strategist, Wellness Warrior; Dr. Brent Bauer, M.D., Mayo Clinic, Director of Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program

ISPA is happy to support WSPA and Wellness Warrior as they continue to make inroads on Capitol Hill to raise awareness around the many initiatives that impact the spa industry,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees, who first voiced a special interest in the ENRICH Act back at WSPA’s  2015 meeting (the act would provide for a grants program to develop and enhance integrated nutrition curricula in medical schools, and currently languishes in committee).”

The first march on Capitol Hill was an historic event for its own sake,” said Mary Bemis, WSPA Symposium Chair and Founding Board Member. “Now, the march is really gaining traction, bringing together the most powerful forces in the spa and wellness industries to help shape national policy. Our united voices will only get stronger.”

Paul Schmidt, Executive Director for the Green Spa Network, who led a number of meetings in the Congressional offices, spoke of the importance of the group’s work for the spa industry, consumers and for the planet:

As our industry evolves, we have a growing stake in making sure public policies that affect our companies and our guests, like safety in personal care and cosmetics, support what’s right and good for the health of people and planet. I’m proud to be directly involved with influencing important legislation and have this opportunity to collaborate with policy makers in supporting public health and sustainability through smart policy.”

Sylvia Sepielli, spa designer and an inductee to this year’s Spa Hall of Fame, shared these empowering words when reflecting back upon the day.

Walking through the halls of Congress and visiting our representatives definitely gives one a feeling of the power and processes up close and personal. I’d urge everyone to get in touch with their legislators, on both sides of the aisle, and encourage them to write and support legislation that promotes preventative care and wellness driven lifestyles.”

A few highlights from the day…

Paul Schmidt, GSN; Susie Ellis, Chairman & CEO at Global Wellness Institute and Global Wellness Summit; and Josh Luckow, Executive Director of Canyon Ranch in front of Congressman Tim Ryan’s (D-OH 13) office.

The office of the Honorable Tim Ryan (D-OH 13), who spoke at the WSPA symposium in 2012, let us know that the ENRICH Act (H.R. 1411), and the Veteran Wellness Act (H.R. 2555) have received bipartisan support, but are meeting resistance because they both require new spending.

If you want to learn more about the ENRICH Act and take action to get this important bill passed, then send a letter through our ENRICH Act Letter Campaign.

The office also let us know that the Salad Bars in Schools Expansion Act (H.R. 2627) is meeting a lot of resistance from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other “Big Food” industry players who feel threatened by more fresh food in schools.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) office told us that the Personal Care Products Act (S.1014) is in great shape, but in this year’s challenging calendar, the bill really needs a push of attention and support to get to hearing at the committee level.

And on the subject of BPA plastics in food containers, the focus for health is sound but the process will likely take another year or more: what they need now is for bi-partisan support to grow and garner more co-sponsors to elevate its status.

Damon Cory-Watson and Austin Song, US Sales Manager of Gharieni pose with Congresswoman Susan Davis, (D-CA 53)

In other exciting news, the Honorable Susan Davis (D-CA 53) let us know that provisions of her Medicare (Type 2) Diabetes Prevention Act (H.R. 2102) were taken up under a Presidential directive set forth by Health and Human Services.

A victory for sure! Read about it in the NY Times.

The office of the Honorable Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3) told us that they are getting a large amount of pushback for the SWEET Act (H.R. 1687) from the Big Soda industry.

Her aides let us know that we can support the act by leveraging our Congress members, both in the House and in the Senate, to co-sponsor the bill.

If you are so inclined, then hop over to our Action Page and send a letter through our SWEET Act Letter Campaign (it will take only a few clicks!).

On a similar note, in the next few weeks, Representative DeLauro will be proposing the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act (a similar bill was proposed in the last Congress) which would eliminate tax write-offs for junk-food advertisements geared towards children.

Now that’s a bill that we can all support!

Bills we support:

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