A Future of Community Health Inclusion

Written by NCHPAD

We envision a future of community health inclusion, one in which health promotion activities are accessible to all.

A truly facilitating community is one in which health promotion activities are as accessible to people with disability as they are to people without disability. All individuals have the right to conditions and resources that ensure optimal health. However, ingrained socioeconomic disadvantages and environmental, programmatic and attitudinal barriers within the community are now widely recognized as major contributors to health disparities experienced by people with disability. The lack of participation in physical activity is a serious public health concern for all Americans, but even more so for the approximately 56 million Americans with disability who are at a much greater risk for developing serious health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.  The high incidence of secondary conditions such as obesity, fatigue, pain, deconditioning and depression reported among people with disability, combined with environmental barriers that discourage participation in community-based health promotion programs, present an opportunity for health professionals to target people with disability in their long-range plans.

Recent national community health initiatives have been developed to promote walking as a way for Americans to meet the recommended amount of physical activity for health benefits.  The U.S. Surgeon General is projected to soon issue a Call to Action on Walking and Walkability as effective strategies for increasing active living and a healthier nation.  A Call to Action from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office is a science-based document intended to stimulate action nationwide to solve a major public health problem.  In 2011, the Every Body Walk! Collaborativewas formed to increase awareness about the health benefits of walking by encouraging 30 minutes, five days a week, while addressing barriers to make walking a part of everyday life.  The Every Body Walk! Collaborative has convened an alliance of national and local partnerswho support walking as a beneficial health activity for Americans.  NCHPAD is excited to be an active partner in this initiative by helping to build inclusionand integration into its framework.

Walking is a simple form of physical activity with substantial health benefits.  It can also serve as a starting point for reducing sedentary behaviors and a gateway to other forms of physical activity.  Given equal access to walking spaces and the adoption of livable community policies, walking is a viable form of physical activity for Americans of all ages and abilities.

People with disability are often left out of health promotion initiatives.  The disability and public health community traditionally encourages the use of inclusive synonyms such as wheeling, rolling, and pushing when promoting walking.  However, the future is community health inclusion, and true inclusion happens when perspectives are challenged and attitudes are changed.

Coming Soon via NCHPAD.org…

The How I Walksocial marketing movement was formed to help society understand that people with disability still walk, and that walking is individualized to the person regardless of ability.  There are various ways to walk, and now is the time to rebrand the word “walking” so that everybody is included in walking initiatives. The visual campaign aims to promote “walking” as an inclusive physical activity term that is individualized.  How I Walk encourages individuals to share their mode of walking through picture, video, or other media by using the hashtag #HowIWalk.  Additionally, How I Walk encourages health promotion providers and walking advocates to adopt this mentality to promote inclusion in walking initiatives.  Organizations are also invited to Make a Commitment to Inclusion in new or existing health promotion programs at committoinclusion.org.  Stay tuned to join the movement to rebrand walking!