Former President Bill Clinton Tuesday called on attendees at a La Quinta health conference to work together to help others live healthier lives.
"It's good to have the right government policies, but there are things that we can do together that will make a difference," Clinton said.
Clinton gave opening remarks at his foundation's second annual "Health Matters" conference at La Quinta Resort & Club. The conference is spotlighting the foundation's new Health Matters Initiative and coincides with the Humana Challenge golf tournament, which the foundation is also sponsoring.
"I want to thank all the people here in the Coachella Valley for welcoming us back," Clinton said. Last year's conference was in Indian Wells.
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Television personality Jillian Michaels led a workout before the conference, themed "Activating Wellness in Every Generation." Health expert Deepak Chopra led a meditation session, and other luminaries, including Clinton's daughter Chelsea, singer Barbra Streisand and golf legend Gary Player were scheduled to appear.
Clinton also gave closing remarks at 5 p.m.
Tuesday morning, Clinton remarked that the United States spends more than 17 percent of its gross domestic product on health care.
"We know that some of these costs, for example, are the direct result of our excess rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes," he said. "... We cannot ignore the link between health and the economy, and it runs both ways."
He cited an article about life expectancy rising for people in all demographics in the U.S. except for white people who don't graduate from high school. Factors such as an increase in smoking, obesity and use of prescription drugs contribute to lower life expectancy for people in that category, he said.
"I believe that it's another way of saying a lot of these people are dying young of a broken heart because of the devastating effects of the economic trends of the last 11 years or so on them. But we have to face the fact that this is happening and that this is part of what we need to do.
"These people are part of our country, they could be making massive contributions to our economy. They are parents, their children need them to live long and healthy lives. This work we can do, whether we're doctors and nurses and medial researchers, heath care providers or just people," he said.
Clinton also addressed a healthcare industry group in Dana Point Monday.
The conference in La Quinta is expected to draw more than 400 people in health care, public policy, business, education, wellness and sports "to identify strategies to promote and improve individual healthy lifestyles in the home, the community, and the workplace," according to a foundation statement.
Other participants included chef Tom Colicchio, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia, restaurateur and television host Lorena Garcia, Desert Healthcare District President Glen Grayman, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, former Surgeon General David Satcher, Olympic gold medal cyclist Kristin Armstrong Savola and Betty Ford Center President and CEO John Schwarzlose.
The foundation launched the Clinton Health Matters Initiative in November, building on its first "Health Matters" conference last January in Indian Wells.
Through the initiative, foundation members will work with Coachella Valley groups to "close gaps in health disparities, and to improve well-being locally," according to a foundation statement. The initiative also will work for global health and against childhood obesity.
For a complete conference schedule, go to www.clintonfoundation.org.