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PCFSN 's Profile


President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
United States

About Me:

Shellie PfohlShellie Pfohl has spent her career focusing on teaming government with nonprofits and the private sector and as Executive Director of the PCFSN, she manages the activities and operations of the President's Council, an advisory committee to the President and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Recent Posts by PCFSN

Fighting Childhood Obesity

by PCFSN July 28, 2010

Shellie Pfohl

As the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition I am profoundly aware of the importance of making physical activity and nutrition accessible and affordable for all Americans, especially children. This is a multifaceted problem, and I’ll address several dimensions of this issue in this discussion. 

Availability of facilities that provide healthy, affordable food in our communities is a necessity.  If we do not have facilities within our neighborhoods where we can obtain fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices, then kids are going to continue to buy the Twinkies.  We’ve got to incent our retail establishments to be able to come into communities. I think we’ve seen success where we’ve put forth the effort in this area.

The school environment has a strong influence on whether physical activity and nutrition are accessible to children. Kids spend a good part of their days, weeks, and years in school.  We’ve got to continue pushing for policy change as it relates to physical education and school meals.

In many cases we are going in the wrong direction. Physical education is being cut out of schools, and it is so very important.  Many states are passing policies mandating physical activity. This time could be recess, before or after school programs, or physical education.  The unintended consequence  we are hearing from school officials is “we are doing our 15 minutes of recess and then kids are walking between classes, so we are just going to cut PE because nobody said we have to do PE.”  Physical education is a curricular area.  It is an educational area that should be taught by a certified physical education teacher.   It is not recess.

When advocates like myself come in and say we need more physical education, what we are really saying is we need more quality PE.

We know it can be done.  Often we hear that test scores are the priority and we only have so many minutes in each school day, but we have examples of schools that have made it a priority where kids are getting 30 minutes of physical education every day and their test scores are increasing.  For more information regarding this, reference the Centers for Disease Control and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education report on academics and physical education. There is an increasing body of research that shows definitively that kids who are physically active perform better academically. It can decrease their delinquency and behavioral issues, as well as help them concentrate so they tend to perform better on tests.

Has your organization worked to improve access to the health of America’s children through physical activity and nutrition? How? To learn how you can get involved, visit and become a President’s Challenge Advocate today.

Note:  The President’s Council’s name was recently changed by Executive Order from President Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) in recognition of the fact that good nutrition must go hand in hand with fitness and sports participation in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Tools You Can Use

by PCFSN April 16, 2010
Coach and kids

Image courtesy of the President’s Challenge

Providing low cost, readily accessible tools that organizations and individuals can use to help children increase their levels of physical activity can be a challenge, but it’s one the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports’ (PCPFS) President’s Challenge program is ready to meet.  Thanks to one of the goals identified in First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative--to increase youth physical activity as measured through participation in the President’s Challenge Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) , the Council hopes more physical activity practitioners, parents, caregivers, and teachers will know about the tools at their disposal. 

In addition to the PALA, the physical activity and fitness awards programs that make up the President’s Challenge offer a low or no cost and easy way to help children and adults stay on track with their physical activity and fitness.  While tracking physical activity isn’t for everyone, it can help some realize a goal, such as those outlined in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and help them work towards improved health.

As the Guidelines for children and adolescents state, young people should engage in a variety of activities that they enjoy.  There are over 100 different activities that count towards earning the PALA including skateboarding, soccer, baseball, rock climbing, canoeing, and the increasingly popular video-based physical activity or exer-games.    This variety exemplifies the breadth of physical activities, including sports and recreational activities, in which individuals of all ages and abilities can participate to maintain or improve their health. 

People need to start someplace and by doing the amount of activity required to earn the PALA, youth and adults are well on their way to realizing the health benefits of physical activity.  If you have the capacity to influence a child’s life, take a moment to consider challenging them to earn the PALA.  The program is for individuals ages 6 and older, therefore, adults (e.g., parents, grandparents, big brothers or sisters, coaches) have the opportunity to set an example for the children they influence by earning their own PALA, too. 

What kinds of tools are you using to increase levels of physical activity among the children you serve?  Do you believe that adults can serve as physical activity role-models for youth?  Have you had success using awards programs to encourage youth or adult physical activity?

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Tapping in to America’s Great Play Spaces

by PCFSN February 2, 2010
children hiking

Credit: Steve Hillebrand/US Fish and Wildlife Service

With millions of acres of public lands and thousands of miles of rivers, Americans have access to an amazing outdoor “gym” in which they can pursue a variety of activities. Between the National Park Service  and the Forest Service alone, there are approximately 160,000 miles of trails, 58 national parks, and more than 14,000 recreational sites. This doesn’t include the numerous state and local parks and recreation areas that may be next door to your home, school, or worksite.  Contrary to popular belief, being active outdoors doesn’t have to mean a long car trip, a lot of gear, or special skills.    


While physical activity researchers and public health professionals tackle the challenge of getting more Americans to meet the recommended levels of physical activity, federal land and water management agencies are tackling questions regarding future generations of conservationists and land managers.  Competing interests ranging from organized after school activities to a variety of electronic media and concerns about safety are among the reasons children may not be engaging in outdoor activity as they were 20-30 years ago.  If children don’t know about these great “play” spaces, why will they care about them in 5, 10, or 15 years?


This presents a valuable opportunity for land and water management agencies and health organizations to come together for the common good and to help both sectors achieve their ultimate goals.  Chapter 8 of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends communities engage sectors such as parks and recreation and transportation for their capacity to facilitate or enhance participation in a variety of physical activities.  Since 2002 a Memorandum of Understanding between the federal land management and public health agencies has encouraged cooperation and information sharing in order to promote the benefits of physical activity on public lands for human and environmental health.    


A number of local, state, and national initiatives in the public and private sectors have facilitated communication between the health, park and recreation, and transportation sectors and furthered the reach and scope of initiatives improving health through recreational or nature-based physical activity.  A few examples include “Get Fit Great Falls”, “No Child Left Inside”, the Arkansas River Trail Medical Mile, and the Forest Service’s “More Kids in the Woods” challenge cost share initiative.  Nationwide, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs improve the ability of primary and middle school students to safely walk and bicycle to school.  Across the country, SRTS programs bring together the very sectors highlighted here in addition to many others.


The President’s Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program includes a ready list of outdoor activities users can select to more quickly facilitate tracking those activities on their personal activity tracker.  Whether it’s a lunch-time walk or wheel through a nearby park, a bike-ride home on a rail-trail, or fishing in a national wildlife refuge, our nation’s public lands and waters are invaluable in our quest to help Americans be more physically active. 


How are you working with your local, state, or federal land management agencies?  What opportunities do you have to connect with these agencies to improve the reach of your physical activity programming? 


Description:  Encouraging partnerships between federal, state, and local land and water management agencies and public health experts and physical activity practitioners to improve levels of physical activity, particularly among our nation’s youth.

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