A Commitment to Inclusion in Out-of-School Time Programs

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Written by NCHPAD

Physical activity is a factor, obesity is an outcome.  This statement speaks to the importance of addressing underlying causes of the obesity epidemic, one such being physicalinactivity. NCHPAD recently attended the National Physical Activity PlanCongress where leading organizations and individuals in the field came togetherto review, revise, and refine the 2010National Physical Activity Plan.  While much progress has been made, there is still work to do in combating our nation’s epidemic of physical inactivity.

The National Physical Activity Plan Alliance prepared a report in 2014 to assess the levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviors in American children and youth, facilitators and barriers for physical activity, and related health outcomes. The 2014 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth does not necessarily warrant highlighting on the refrigerator.  For the indicator of overall physical activity, defined as the proportion of U.S children and youth attaining 60 or more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity on at least five days per week, a grade of D- was given.  It is widely established that the school setting offers many opportunities for children and youth to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity through quality physical education, recess, classroom activity breaks, and out-of-school time (OST).  The OST refers to programming before and after school as well as vacation camps that engage children and youth in a range of extracurricular activities. There has been recent momentum for the promotion of physical activity in out-of-school time programs. Physical activity in these programs provides an ideal setting for children and youth to attain at least half of their recommended daily physical activity levels when programs are well planned and executed.

To leverage this momentum, the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST Coalition) was established in 2009. One of the accomplishments of the HOST Coalition was the development of a set of science-informed standards regarding healthy eating and physical activity in out-of-school time programming—the HEPA Standards.  The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability is a member of the HOST Coalition and helps to address the role of inclusion in OST programs.

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There is an overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates that the 5.5 million children with disability in the U.S. are not only at greater risk of developing serious health conditions associated with sedentary lifestyle such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, but they also face greater environmental barriers that impede access.  This presents an opportunity for organizations to target youth with disability in their long range plans.  Inclusion in physical activity and athletics is how children learn from each other, build social skills and optimize their growth and development.


“Barriers which prevent youth with disability from participation in OST programs include separate classes and school placements which limit opportunities for participation, insufficient teacher preparation, a lack of parental involvement, and a lack of transportation to OST opportunities.  Promoting inclusion means treating youth with disabilities as similarly to those without disabilities as possible, ensuring a welcoming and supportive environment for all students.  In many situations, inclusion simply requires sensitivity to the needs of individuals–a mindset which is important to working with all youth, whether or not they have a disability– rather than any major changes to the program structure or space.  However, in certain cases, the needs of individuals with disabilities may require OST programs to implement a more individualized set of practices and program modifications to allow youth to access and actively participate in the programs and services offered.”-Reprinted from Inclusive Out-of-School-Time, found at nchpad.org


The Guidelines for Disability Inclusion in Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Programs and Policies are intended for any organization that provides physical activity, nutrition, or obesity programs or policies.  These can be used as a starting point for including children and youth with disability in physical activity and out-of-school time programming. Organizations can make a commitmentto adopt these Guidelines and related resources through the Commit to Inclusion campaign.  Visit committoinclusion.orgto learn more and make the commitment!  

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