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Creighton Student Places First Nationally for His Advice to Sen. McCain

Creighton Student Places First Nationally for His Advice to Sen. McCain

What would you do if you had the chance to tell a presidential candidate what you really thought?

Andrew Walquist of Lincoln, who is pursuing a doctor of physical therapy degree at Creighton University’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, had just that opportunity. And, he walked away with $1,000 and a first-place finish among graduate-student entries in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s second annual student essay contest.

The contest asked students to position themselves as analysts on the next president-elect's health care transition team and write memos recommending the new administration's health priorities in one of five areas: controlling health care costs, eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities, expanding health promotion and disease prevention efforts, improving women's health or improving the quality of health care.

Walquist, who plans to graduate from Creighton in 2009, chose to write a memo to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on “Health Promotion Initiatives – McCain Combating Obesity” as part of a class assignment.

Among his recommendations:

  •  The U.S. Department of Education should offer fitness grants to schools that comply with the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendations of daily, quality physical education and stipulations regarding nutrition, as outlined in a 2001 Call to Action.
  •  Health insurance companies should receive tax breaks if they monetarily reward policyholders and their families for actively practicing wellness and fitness.

“The biggest hurdle in allocating funds for promoting healthy living is that few politicians regard them as good investments because there is little or no financial return,” Walquist concluded in his essay. “However, it is projected that every dollar spent on programs like CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health, a school-based program) will save $1.20 in future lost wages and medical expense by the time enrolled students reach 40-64 years of age.”

Contest judges included former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D.; Federation of American Hospitals President Chip Kahn, M.P.H.; George Washington University School of Public Health Dean Ruth Katz, J.D., M.P.H.; Kaiser President and Chief Executive Officer Drew E. Altman, Ph.D.; and Kaiser Executive Vice President Diane Rowland, Sc.D. Essay winners were announced Monday.

Entries were received from undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at 100 universities across the country in a wide range of disciplines including economics, public health, health administration, nursing, physical therapy, medicine and public policy. Students chose to write memos advising Sens. McCain; Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Barack Obama, D-Ill.; and other former presidential candidates. The winning essays can be read online at http://www.kaiserEDU.org/essayprizes2008.asp.