Partnering with NACCHO to Support Local Health Departments’ Physical Activity Efforts

Physical activity is vital to maintaining and improving the health and well-being of people of all ages and provides physical, social, and mental health benefits. Physical activity promotion at the community level is especially important because barriers to physical activity vary greatly across different environments and groups. Local health departments have a unique opportunity to support and encourage physical activity in communities across the United States — and they can do so through the Move Your Way® campaign, the promotional campaign for the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Based on research showing that people prefer to hear physical activity messages from community sources, ODPHP decided to use the community-based prevention marketing framework to guide campaign implementation. Using this framework, community organizations can work with coalitions and partners to tailor the campaign to the needs of their communities. Knowing that local health departments are well positioned to lead this type of work, ODPHP partnered with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), whose mission is to improve the health of communities by strengthening and advocating for the nation's nearly 3,000 local health departments.

Assessing Needs

Prior to this collaboration, little was known about if and how local health departments are promoting physical activity. To help inform future efforts, NACCHO fielded an assessment to better understand the facilitators, challenges, lessons learned, and resource needs of local health departments engaged in physical activity promotion. The results from this assessment were analyzed, summarized, and presented in the recently released Physical Activity Guidelines Issue Brief: A National Review of LHD Physical Activity Programs and Policies.

The assessment determined that:

  • Most local health departments reported that they incorporate physical activity into healthy lifestyle programs and chronic disease programs, but some reported no physical activity efforts at their health department at all
  • The biggest barriers to physical activity promotion were the lack of dedicated funding and lack of staff expertise or training
  • Most local health departments indicated a need for communication and educational resources that they could use to promote physical activity

These findings identified that there’s an opportunity for ODPHP and other national physical activity organizations to better promote best practices and disseminate available resources.

Sharing Best Practices

To help local health departments learn from one another and highlight existing resources, NACCHO developed a compendium of success stories [PDF - 2.8 MB] highlighting how health departments promoted physical activity using Move Your Way resources, including the Community Playbook. The compendium shows how 3 health departments promoted physical activity — highlighting key partners, events and activities, and strategies for campaign success. Each health department customized the campaign to leverage local resources and strengths — and to meet health department goals. They found great success:

  • Collaborating with new and existing partners to host events
  • Using the Move Your Way campaign to get community members excited about local resources, like parks and trails
  • Leveraging social media to engage community members in virtual physical activity opportunities

Looking to the Future

Part of NACCHO’s ongoing work is to help local health departments implement programs and policies that make it easier for people to maximize their potential quality of life. With that goal in mind, NACCHO is currently developing a policy statement with the latest science and public health approaches to address key issues in physical activity promotion at the local level.

“Though our collaboration with ODPHP on this initiative, we have identified opportunities to help local health departments expand physical activity programming and policies,” says Stephanie Weiss, NACCHO’s Chronic Disease Director. “We look forward to building on the recommendations from the issue brief and sharing new tools and resources with NACCHO members.”

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