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.
It's a wonderful time to be in the business of promoting physical activity. There aren't many issues in the public policy arena that enjoy such a broad consensus of support across political, social, and cultural lines. Everyone agrees that physical activity is good, regular physical activity is better, and a physically active lifestyle is best!
But it is a challenging time in Washington, DC and across the nation - with dwindling public health dollars, austere budgeting, "nanny state" push-back, and the need to accomplish more with fewer resources. That is why it is more important than ever that people, organizations, government agencies, industries, and others who are interested in promoting health and wellness must come together. We need to present consistent, unified messaging, coordinate our resources, and collaborate across various sectors to create healthier environments and policies that allow people to make healthy choices.
In our efforts to implement the National Physical Activity Plan, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity has built a network of individuals working across eight different sectors - including education, public health, business/industry, health care, parks and recreation, and transportation - to implement the strategies and tactics laid out in this important road map. These strategies drive specific policies and programs aimed at getting people up on their feet and moving.
Business & Industry Sector
In the business and industry sector, we are working to identify, collect, and make available the best practices, models, and existing programs for physical activity in the workplace. The sector team has developed a CEO Pledge, urging corporate leaders to commit themselves and their companies to provide opportunities and access for their employees to be active before, during, and after the work day. These businesses will gain access to a valuable resource list to help shift their corporate cultures from sedentary to physically active work environments.
One of the education sector's strategies is to promote policies to provide access and opportunities for physical activity in after-school programming. The sector team conducted a survey to compile information on standards and guidelines for afterschool activity. They gathered data from 500 programs in 10 regions, and also looked at school districts with diverse demographic profiles. In fact, this year marked the first development and adoption of National Standards on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Afterschool Programs.
The health sector is working to make physical activity a "vital sign" that all health care providers assess and discuss with patients. The team is working to establish physical inactivity as a treatable and preventable condition with profound health implications. They are also developing policies to include physical activity in the education and training of all health care professionals.
The Federal government by nature of its broad reach can lead the cultural shift. The same folks who put Rosie the Riveter to work in the factories now need to help Rosie get off the couch and make the move to a physically active lifestyle. Physical activity needs to be inserted into the health policies of the entire government.
To reach the ultimate goal of creating a society of physically active children and adults, we all need to use a common voice when bringing our ideas and energy to the effort. There's something for everyone in the National Physical Activity Plan. What are you doing to help put the plan into action?
National Plan | Policy | Schools
Program: A planned series of future events, items, or performances.Policy: A proposed or adopted course or principle of action.
One way to get Americans engaged in physical activity is through the use of programming. This might mean regular “classes”, special events, etc. Programs are conducted by government bodies such as recreation and park departments or public schools, by not for profit organizations like the Y, the JCC and also by local community groups.
Programs provide ready made activities that have structure, resources, personnel, etc. but what happens when the class is over or the event ends? Do those same people still engage in the amount of daily physical activity as recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans? If not, why not? Likely, it is not nearly as convenient and in the case of a special event, perhaps it is just not logistically possible.
Let’s look at an example… National Walk to School Day. Perhaps your community has created activities surrounding this day…maybe they have gathered volunteers to work as crossing guards so that it is safe for children to cross streets or perhaps they have allowed streets to only be one way to enable safe walking and biking. Many parents participate with their children or talk to their kids who walked/biked about how they enjoyed it…discussion spreads through the “parent network”… “Wouldn’t it be great if the kids could safely walk/bike to school on a regular basis-not just once a year?” They begin to look at what would be needed to make that happen…perhaps its traffic signals-maybe its crossing guards-perhaps its considering walking/biking when making decisions of where to put schools and when developing neighborhoods.
Here’s another one…the local swimming pools are very popular with families and kids. Their activity however, leaves no space for those that want to swim laps. The manager at one pool notices this and institutes time each hour that allows for lap swimming. Word spreads through the community and interested parties start asking other managers to do the same on a trial basis…soon a group of dedicated lap swimmers organizes and approaches policy makers asking for a community wide policy to be developed designating lap swimming time.
This is how policy often starts-particularly on the local level. A group of individuals rally around a problem of common interest and work to educate and influence policy makers about solutions.
The above examples demonstrate how programming can lead to policy. The National Physical Activity Plan is full of ideas on policies that would make it easier for Americans to engage in physical activity where they work, live, worship, shop and- go to school. Local groups interested in instituting some of these polices in their own communities might want to consider hosting events or regular activities that can help educate and shape residents to work towards policies that would make it easier to engage in physical activity on a daily basis.
What ideas do you have for programs that could lead to policies?
Tags: program, policy, physical activity
Building Healthy Communities | Marketing Physical Activity | National Plan
Everyone knows that physical activity is good for us... right? Okay, maybe not everyone, but certainly the vast majority of adults and many, many children, as do policymakers, healthcare professionals, etc. Yet so few of us regularly attain the daily recommendations in the National Physical Activity Guidelines. The million dollar question is: WHY?
The most popular reason listed is time, or lack thereof. For many adults, the amount of time they spend at work and commuting to/from work is in excess of 10 hours a day. Add in other responsibilities - such as children, or perhaps, classes - and there is not much left of their waking hours. While a federal mandate reducing work hours for all would be great, it is clearly not realistic. But, what can be done is to look at how physical activity can be incorporated into the commute and/or the work day, and what role a community plays in helping to make this happen.
Take the commute. There are a variety of ways that physical activity can be integrated into commuting. The National Physical Activity Plan's Transportation and Active Living sector has identified several immediate priorities dedicated to active transportation. Employers, federal and state legislators, as well as communities and individuals themselves must work together if policy change that will encourage active commuting is going to happen.
Communities can insure that bike racks are installed at transit stations and that commuter parking lots are safe, well lit, and in inclement weather, provide clear sidewalks. Communities could work with employers to institute a bicycle sharing program with locations at local transit stations as well as in areas conducive to places of employment. Such programs allow individuals to "borrow a bike" for a very nominal fee and are increasing in popularity.
And now for the workday... when thinking of communities, we often silo them as their own entities, with their own activities and priorities for serving their residents. We don't often think of them working in partnership with the companies, etc. that may be in their boundaries. Working together with employers, communities can make great strides in helping more people log increased physical activity during the workday. Perhaps a brochure could be developed for those working in the community, highlighting facilities, parks, etc. that are available for physical activity. Another thought is using the employees as focus groups to help determine development and expansion of things like walking trails. Is there a lovely corporate campus headquarter that might be the perfect setting for construction of a non-motorized trail that could serve the needs of both the employees and community residents? Can special rates be offered for a community fitness facility to those that are working in the community but might not be residents? Employees might be new recruiting ground for volunteer youth sport coaches or additional teams for existing or new adult sports leagues.
What ideas do you have for how communities can work together with companies, etc. to make it easier for employees and residents to engage in fitness activities?
Tags: Physical activity, communities, employers, work, commute, bikeshare
Active Advice | Building Healthy Communities | Physical Activity and Employers
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.