Be Active Your Way Blog
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Melissa Merson is the Executive Director of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA). NCPPA is the leading force in the country promoting physical activity and fitness initiatives. We are a diverse blend of associations, health organizations, and private corporations advocating for policies that encourage Americans of all ages to become more physically active. Melissa has decades of experience as an innovative communications and government relations professional in Washington, DC. She also is involved in international sports governance for the Olympic sport of triathlon. Melissa is an accomplished triathlete and has competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. She is the founder and coach of the Arlington Triathlon Club, a school-based multi-sport training program for public school students. She has won numerous awards for innovative youth and sports development initiatives. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter bringing people interested in physical activity together all over the world.
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt
Policy...isn't that something that only the “wonks” of the world think about? You know the type...they run around quoting combos of letters and numbers like HB123 or SB567...or preaching that ABC policy will mean XYZ to the local community. The reality is that, according to Wikipedia, “shaping public policy is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the interplay of numerous individuals and interest groups competing and collaborating to influence policymakers to act in a particular way.”
Many individuals never give much thought to how ideas become laws or policies nor do they think that they can help affect change in areas that they are passionate about. The truth of the matter is that while the “wonks” are an integral part of turning ideas into policy, in most cases, it really does take a whole cast of characters to affect change including both organized groups and individual citizens.
The nations' first Physical Activity Plan that was introduced in May has been described as “policy based” but what does that really mean? Under the leadership of the, National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity a broad array of groups have formed an NPAP implementation team to work on converting the strategies and tactics included in the NPAP into local, state and federal policies that help Americans to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Let's look at an example....take Safe Routes to School. According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, SRTS programs work to insure that communities put policies into place that make it safe for children to walk or bicycle to school thus increasing the amount of physical activity in their day. The NPAP consists of eight different sectors including Education and Transportation/Active Living. Under the tactics listed for one of the education strategies is: “Support SRTS efforts to increase active transportation to and from school and support accommodations for children with disabilities.” Under the Transportation and Active Living Sector there are tactics related to SRTS such as, “support annual reporting by all schools of their transportation mode split” and “expand safe routes” initiatives at national, state, county and local levels to enable safe walking and biking routes to a variety of destinations especially to schools.”
My personal hope is that the concept of “Safe Routes” can be expanded to include community places such as parks, Y's, libraries, retail areas, etc. Imagine being able to have your children or yourselves be able to safely ride their bike or walk to the library....the benefits are endless to such a concept reaching beyond the obvious of increasing physical activity to include such things as reducing the amount of emissions in the air.
Would you like to see “Safe Routes” expanded to include other community places? What do you see the as the benefits and the challenges of this type of expansion?
Tags: Policy, National Physical Activity Plan, Safe Routes to Schools
National Plan | Policy
One of my favorite quotes from the movie Sea Biscuit is, “This is not the finish line, my friends. This is the start of the race.” I consider May 3, 2010 – the day that the Nation’s first Physical Activity Plan was launched – as the start of the race to increase the number of American’s striving to achieve the amount of physical activity recommended for their demographic in the National Physical Activity Guidelines. It is a race that my organization, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) believes is critical to improving the health of our Nation and reducing the cost of healthcare.
NCPPA is off and running ourselves, providing the leadership for implementation of the Plan. We have been working for several months to build a network of organizations dedicated to ensuring that the strategies and tactics included in each of the eight sectors in the Plan becomes a reality.
Never before has the urgency of physical inactivity and its complications been so widely reported. The rise in awareness – along with a better understanding of what interventions work and how to apply them has provided the momentum for The Plan and is what is fueling organizations throughout the country to ask “How can we help?”
The National Implementation Team is a tiered collaborative effort with organizations serving as sector leaders, strategy leaders and strategy supporters. NCPPA has built a team of 15 organizations that have agreed to serve as leaders across the sectors. These leaders will coordinate the efforts of the strategy leaders in their sector and the strategy leaders will in turn coordinate the strategy supporters. In many cases, these organizations are going to continue efforts on initiatives that they have previously been working on; however there is now more opportunity for collaboration and visibility. In other cases, they may choose to work on a brand new initiative but one that is very much in alignment with their established goals and visions.
The National Physical Activity Plan will have unprecedented reach and this is just one of the reasons, that the Plan is a unique effort. In the aggregate, the reach among the fifteen organizations serving as Sector Leaders represent:
The ability to reach such a diverse and distributed network with a prescription for change and simple strategies to achieve it is one of the most powerful components of the National Plan.
If your organization is interested in becoming involved with the NPAP, please let us know by visiting the NCPPA website and clicking on the Get Involved! button.
What sector, strategy and/or tactics do you see your organization becoming involved with? What do you think is the “low hanging fruit” in your sector(s) of interest?
Tags: Implementing National Plan
A new year…a new me! I can’t even imagine how many Americans have that thought running through their heads when January 1 roles around and it is time to ponder one’s goals for the new year (I am stopping short of calling the thought a resolution)…in fact, the media reported just this week that the 3rd most popular New year’s Resolution (oops..there it is-THAT word!) is to “get fit”.
The landmark Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans have provided a great goal for people to reach for…and the Nation’s first National Physical Activity Plan is a roadmap to help them get there. Dr. Russ Pate’s 11/17/09 blog post provides an excellent introduction to the Plan. The ultimate success of the plan will produce a marked and progressive increase in the percentage of Americans who meet the guidelines throughout life.
The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) is spearheading the implementation of the Plan. The sector approach adopted by the plan will allow us to address a variety of themes such as environmental design (office buildings, communities, worksites, and schools) and integration of physical activity fully into our lives-whether it be while working, learning or playing (think physical activity/education in schools; parks and recreation programs and facilities; worksite physical activity programs, and shared use of schools, corporate campuses, etc.). Successful implementation will also involve systematically working towards environment and policy changes in a variety of sectors, at the local, state and national levels that will integrate physical activity into a variety of areas. Of course, public health and education immediately come to mind but it will be important to also focus on unorthodox areas (in terms of physical activity) of government policy such as transportation, economic recovery, climate change, and community development. Policy changes are not however, limited to government-they can reach into corporate culture as well as how physical activity is treated as part of health care and health insurance.
Implementation of something this large would needless to say be a monumental task for one organization; however by many organizations working together it becomes not only manageable but realistic and tangible as well. NCPPA is looking for key organizations that are willing to commit to providing the leadership of the various strategies and objectives contained within the plan. In many cases, there may be a strategy that your organization has already deemed a priority and in other cases, it may be something new but of interest to your organization. The Plan’s ultimate success lies in the partnership of organizations that is being created to “get down and dirty”…to actually take the Plan and put it into action.
Plans are well underway for a National Plan initial launch in early May, however the groundwork is beginning now. Is your organization willing to commit to leadership on one or more strategies? If that is not possible, is your organization willing to co-lead or work on a strategy? Would your city, county, etc. like to be involved in a local launch? If you would like more information on getting involved in implementation of the National Plan, please contact us.
“Name that Cause!” What are your ideas for the name brand or tag line for a shared cause to improve physical activity choices in homes, schools, worksites, and communities? What would attract organizations and individuals to join a shared cause to improve physical activity choices in homes, schools, worksites, and communities?
Tags: New Year, New Year's Resolution, National Physical Activity Plan, Implementation
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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