Be Active Your Way Blog
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Russell R. Pate, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Pate is a national authority on physical activity in children and youth with more than 25 years experience studying physical fitness, measurement of physical activity, determinants of physical activity, and physical activity interventions. Pate is Chair of the Coordinating Committee for the development of the first National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) for the United States.
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The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) will have reached success when the vast majority of Americans regularly meet or surpass the Physical Activity Guidelines. The NPAP has over 250 evidence-based recommendations for changes in the policies and systems that guide the environments in which we live, work, learn, play, and commute. It's a roadmap that, if followed, will lead to a more physically active nation. It's the "if followed" part, however, that poses the greatest challenge. But fortunately, evidence is beginning to emerge that the NPAP is being followed.
There's no question that policy changes at the national/federal level (e.g. enacting the FIT Kids Act, requiring school accountability for the quality and quantity of physical education and physical activity programs) can impact policies and programs at the local level. Through its relationship with the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), the NPAP is working to create change at the national level. However, NPAP's success will also come as the result of state and local efforts, through which the NPAP is used as a roadmap for states and municipalities.
In the last year, two examples have emerged for how the NPAP has been used to develop state and local level physical activity plans.
Last year, the state of West Virginia and the city of San Antonio, Texas released their state and city physical activity plans, respectively. In both cases the NPAP's eight societal sectors provided the framework for each plan's content. The strategies and tactics from the NPAP's sectors were either copied directly, if applicable, or modified to meet the state and local needs. Or, in cases where the specific needs of the state or municipality were not directly addressed, new strategies or tactics were included. In addition, the process employed by the NPAP to develop and launch the national plan was adopted to develop the state and local plans.
It may be decades before the proverbial fruits of our labor are realized, where incidence and prevalence of non-communicable disease are substantially decreased because most Americans are sufficiently physically active. However, important progress is being made at the state and local level, and development of state and local physical activity plans is an example of that progress.
Do you have examples of progress being made in your town, city, or state?
Tags: physical activity, National Physical Activity Plan, states, cities, NPAP
Building Healthy Communities | National Plan
How do you measure something as far reaching as a national plan to get an entire population to be more physically active? Is the answer as simple as measuring physical activity across representative samples of the population to document how many Americans are or are not meeting federal Physical Activity Guidelines? Certainly the levels of physical activity among certain populations are logical outcomes to measure, and ones we are ultimately most interested in. But the answer is more complex - one that architects of the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) recognize as being critical to its overall success.
The NPAP was designed with the purpose of being actionable. From lawmaker or lobbyist to teacher or parent, the NPAP offers suggestions on how action can be taken to change the environments in which we work, live, learn, play, and commute, so they all offer easy access to physical activity. It may not be possible to evaluate the actions taken by every individual trying to advance the initiatives of the NPAP, but it is possible to measure outcomes that demonstrate the impact the NPAP is having, or not having, at national, state, and local levels. In order to determine the NPAP's impact, there is now a three-pronged evaluation effort underway.
1) At the national level, quarterly reports generated by sector-specific teams charged with implementing select recommendations from the NPAP's societal sectors will be collected to determine: Progress and barriers for each sector and for the NPAP overall; Products, programs, practice/policy changes, and media generated by the NPAP; and the level of collaboration between and among the different sectors of the NPAP.
2) Case studies of several states will be conducted to determine the extent to which the NPAP is impacting state physical activity plans, or related plans. Specifically, interviews will be conducted with key state-level representatives to determine awareness of gaps, barriers, and factors that contribute to knowledge transfer of the NPAP between national, state, and local levels, and to determine if and how the NPAP is being used within the state.
3) Additionally at state and local levels, members of the National Society of Physical Activity Practitioners in Public Health (NSPAPPH) are being surveyed to determine their opinions regarding the NPAP and motivations to use it, and changes to State plans as a result of the NPAP.
The NPAP evaluation effort is being spearheaded by the Physical Activity Policy Research Network within the Prevention Research Center at Washington University - St. Louis, with additional involvement from the Prevention Research Centers at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of South Carolina.
How do you measure you or your organization measure your progress in improving health through physical activity?
Tags: National physical activity plan, physical activity, evaluation
In all likelihood, if you are reading this blog, you're already well aware of the myriad of benefits associated with being regularly physically active, and you likely meet or exceed federal physical activity guidelines. What you may be less aware of are the ways in which you can become a voice for physical activity promotion in your community, so that your neighbors, colleagues, and friends can also realize the benefits of being more active.
Maybe you've noticed that physical education is no longer required in your children's school, that there are unsafe sidewalks in your town, or no bike racks where you work, while others never give you thought to such issues. As an individual, what can you do? With May being National Physical Activity Month, you can use the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) to become a voice for change that echoes for months to come.
The NPAP is a document comprised of recommendations for changes in the environments in which we live, work, play, travel, and learn, such that they better support physical activity. Most of the recommendations made in the NPAP are written with policymakers in mind. Maybe as an employer, school board member, or parent, you are policymaker, with the ability to alter an environment so that it's easier for others to be more active. If so, the buck may start and stop with you. But maybe you're not a policymaker, what then? Then, you can become a voice for change, an informed advocate with the power to influence those in position to make change.
With recommendations from across a number of societal sectors - including Education; Parks, Recreation, Fitness and Sports; Business and Industry; and Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design - the NPAP is your roadmap for becoming an advocate at local, state, and even national levels.
For example, if you want to be a voice for more physical activity opportunities for youth in your community, approach the local school board or P.T.A. with the information from the Education sector, citing specific recommendations from the NPAP that call for community partnerships that will create such opportunities.
As another example, maybe you know that if there were just more bike lanes and sidewalks where you live, more people could safely walk to the store, or bike to work. Here, you can become an advocate for change at local and state levels by meeting with your elected officials or members of your state's Department of Transportation, armed with "real world" recommendations for change that have been proven effective.
There could not be a better way to celebrate National Physical Activity Month than to model healthy physical activity behavior, while also becoming an educated advocate for physical activity. So please use the Federal PA Guidelines to become or stay a model of healthy behavior, and use the NPAP to become a strong advocate for change to improve the lives of others.
How are you advocating for change?
Tags: National physical activity plan, advocacy, physical activity month
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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