State Physical Activity Plans – Expanding Roadmaps for Change


By Kate Olscamp, Communications Coordinator with the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance

The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) acts as a comprehensive roadmap facilitating widespread achievement of the Physical Activity Guidelines. The vision of the NPAP is that “one day, all Americans will be physically active, and they will live, work, and play in environments that encourage and support regular physical activity.” The realization of this vision will require a groundswell of public support and involve a unified effort at the community, state, and national level.

Connecting with States – A Developing Project of the NPAPA

The latest version of the NPAP, updated in 2016, includes overarching priorities which serve to guide the direction of the plan, and the field, moving forward.  One of these overarching priorities is to support the development and implementation of comprehensive physical activity strategic plans at state, regional, and community levels. State initiatives are particularly critical since a great deal of public health policy development occurs at the state level. Establishing physical activity as a statewide priority can help to guide the funding and resource allocation necessary to implement the strategies and tactics within the national and state level physical activity plans. To support this goal the NPAPA is launching a new state-focused initiative. The project, led by Bill Kohl, PhD, MSPH and Eloise Elliot, PhD, will catalogue plans in use throughout the country in an effort to understand the current state-level landscape. The team supporting this effort will examine state-level physical activity plans, as well as broader chronic disease or obesity plans that contain physical activity strategies. This project expands upon research completed earlier in the history of the plan, and serves as the first step in the achievement of a crucial NPAP overarching priority.

Lessons Learned from a Plan in Action

One of the plans to be included within the newest cataloguing initiative is the West Virginia Physical Activity Plan. Released in early 2012, the West Virginia Physical Activity Plan is modeled after the NPAP and includes eight sectors relevant to the West Virginia community.  The plan is built around 5 priority areas including:

  1. School Based Programs (through the implementation of ActiveWV Schools)
  2. Public Awareness and Marketing (through the “Be Wild. Be Wonderful. Be Active.” Campaign)
  3. Community Engagement and Environment
  4. Institutional and Organizational Support (focusing on the ActiveWV Health Care program)
  5. Policy

A recent assessment examined the ability for evaluation within the West Virginia plan. Results highlighted the need for an entity in charge of implementation and the simplification of the plan into sector specific logic models. Authors suggest these changes will foster continued application of the plan into the communities it aims to impact.

The Role of States in the National Physical Activity Plan

The focus on the state level within the NPAP extends beyond a single overarching priority and new initiative. In total six sectors, two strategies, and over twenty-five tactics include content specific to state-level activities. Tactics at the state level include:

  • From Community Recreation, Fitness and Parks: Advocate for strong governor advisory panels on physical activity to ensure development of state-level physical activity policies and partnerships between government, community based organizations, and the private sector.
  • From Transportation, Land Use and Community Design: Encourage state governments to provide incentives for local jurisdictions to adopt mixed-use zoning laws.
  • From the Public Health Sector: Support the creation of a physical activity and health unit in state health departments that functions as part of an integrated and coordinated approach to chronic disease prevention.

Outside the plan itself, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA) has developed a State Liaison Network designed to enhance the impact of the NPAP at the state level. Liaisons work in varying capacities including positions within state health departments, community organizations, and academic institutions. Participating individuals serve as representatives for the plan within their states, and are in turn able to share innovative projects and initiatives going on in their area with the national group. The network ensures continued connection with the state level, helping the NPAPA maintain a pulse on the local activities.

To learn more about the NPAP, the State Liaison Network, or ways that you can support this state physical activity plan initiative, visit the NPAP website or connect with the NPAP Alliance on social media through Facebook or Twitter.

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