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Audacious goals for 2016

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By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

Author James Collins, in his 2011 book “Great by Choice,” introduced me to the term Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) for short. Collins defines a BHAG as ” … an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress toward an envisioned future.”

In lieu of my 2016 New Year’s resolution, I’d like to share my BHAG with you in hopes that it inspires you to create your own: By 2036, the U.S. will be the healthiest country in the world.

While I was attending New York City’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2012, we were required to come up with a BHAG, and mine was to help put an end to childhood obesity within one generation.

Since then, I’ve researched the problem and been involved with organizations that have the same goal. There are many smart and ambitious people working hard to get our children healthy. In southwest Montana, the Gallatin Valley Farm to School program is having great success – schools in Bozeman like Irving Elementary, Chief Joseph Middle School and Emily Dickinson Elementary are growing edible gardens on school grounds, and incorporating them into science and art lessons.

So why, with so many talented people investing so much time and energy, are we not seeing a decline in childhood obesity in this country?

My “aha” moment came during a spring 2015 conference in Bozeman that focused on workplace wellness in Montana. Presenters from across the country who are established in this field disagreed on many things, but they all agreed that if a company doesn’t have a culture of health and well-being, it can’t fully thrive.

Culture is like the pulse of the workplace. It’s how things operate on a day-to-day basis and how employees feel after a day’s work – the programs a company offers do not define its culture. Weight-loss challenges, biometric screenings and Fitbit incentives don’t necessarily indicate a healthy culture.

This made me realize that while obesity prevention programs are wonderful, they are weakened because the U.S. doesn’t have a culture that supports health. Our culture values cheap, fast and convenient food regardless of its nutritional value. It supports spending our days in front of screens and taking pills for whatever ails us, rather than dealing with our stress.

Political and corporate leaders, parents and teachers, healthcare practitioners and concerned citizens need to come together and create a culture that supports health for our children to thrive. Just as importantly, adults need to walk the talk and lead by example. This is just the beginning, but it’s where we start.

So there you have it, my Big Hairy Audacious Goal: a 20-year plan to make the U.S. the healthiest country in the world. It will only happen by setting a great example for our children to follow.

Create your own BHAG, tell your friends about it to stay accountable, and go for it with gusto!

Stay tuned for my next column discussing how we can eat to starve cancer.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at

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