Wellness and Nutrition

Throughout his career, Senator Tom Harkin sought health care system reforms and discussions to bring a progressive focus to prevention, wellness, medical research, and food and drug safety.

Register Now: Harkin on Wellness 2024!

Harkin on Wellness 2024 will take place Wednesday, April 3 in Des Moines, IA, at Olmsted Center at Drake University. This year’s theme is Wellbeing in Schools and will feature a keynote presentation by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. The event will feature innovative approaches to improving health and wellness in schools that can mitigate the challenges facing students, teachers, and school leaders. More information coming soon!

What’s Happening Now


The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement works tirelessly every day to advance Senator Harkin’s legacy within the realm of wellness and nutrition. The Harkin Institute established a Core Advisory Committee comprised of experts in the wellness and nutrition field to direct our focus in this area. Watch for more research and information published by The Harkin Institute in the coming months. Working in collaboration with Senator Harkin, a Wellness and Nutrition Core Advisory Committee has identified and defined the following research agenda that will drive The Harkin Institute’s public policy initiatives in wellness and nutrition:

  • School nutrition
  • Food subsidies (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and WIC)
  • The impact of diet on climate change

2023 Harkin on Wellness Symposium

The 2023 Harkin on Wellness (HOW) Symposium will address new approaches to improve health and food outcomes and how to make those systems more sustainable. National and local experts will join us to explore how we can reimagine the food system from farm to table and everywhere in between.

Wellness and Nutrition Reports:

Piloting a New Way Forward: Using Farm Bill Pilots to Guide Future Ag Policy

An important but often overlooked component of the Farm Bill is the use of pilot programs and projects: small-scale testing programs operated over a short period of time to determine the viability of long-term nationwide programs. Pilot programs are a financially effective ways for policymakers to attempt new programs on small scale before committing taxpayer dollars. This report seeks to inform policymakers and experts on the outcome of pilot programs included in Farm Bills from 1981 to 2018.

As chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Harkin played a key role in spearheading efforts to enact innovative initiatives to keep individuals and families healthy not only in the doctor’s office but also where they live, work, and play. Highlights of Sen. Harkin’s work include:

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Establishing Wellness and Prevention as National Priorities Sen. Harkin authored many prevention provisions including the creation of the $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, a dedicated stream of funding for public health, wellness, and prevention initiatives. The ACA also included workplace wellness initiatives and nutrition labeling requirements.

Expanding Community Health Centers Throughout his 25 years as chair or ranking member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, Sen. Harkin tripled funding for community health centers from $496 million in 1989 to $1.5 billion in 2014.

Supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Senator Harkin spread national awareness of the importance of prevention by changing the name of the Centers for Disease Control in 1991 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was also instrumental in more than tripling the CDC’s annual funding from 1995 to 2014. That increase from $2.1 billion to $6.8 billion allowed for historic investments in prevention.

Leadership in Smoking Cessation In 1994, Sen. Harkin expanded research to include the impact of tobacco smoking. In 1998, he introduced a bipartisan bill to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.

Improving Mental Health Care As a longtime champion of equitable insurance coverage for mental health conditions, Sen. Harkin introduced numerous programs to enhance the nation’s capacity for awareness, prevention, early identification, and services and treatment for mental health conditions.

Investing in Critical Medical Research Senator Harkin has been a leader in the investment in the National Institutes of Health’s biomedical research that has yielded many important breakthroughs. He has also worked tirelessly to secure resources for continued support of groundbreaking science.

Safeguarding the Food Supply Sen. Harkin guided the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, one of the most significant improvements to America’s food and safety standards in decades. This act enforced higher restrictions to keep food safe from farm to fork for all Americans.

Ensuring Safe and Effective Drugs and Medical Devices Sen. Harkin worked to modernize oversight of drug manufacturing, establish a nationwide drug-tracking system, transform the pharmaceutical distribution system, and regulate drug compounding.

Address: 2800 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50311

Phone: (515) 271-3623

Email: harkininstitute@drake.edu

Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.