At a time when policymakers are pulling levers to transform our sick care system to a genuine health care system, we have redesigned our flagship health promotion program, Get Active America, beginning May 2, 2011, to position health clubs as leading voices in their communities for healthy and active lifestyles.
The cornerstone of Get Active America is outreach to encourage the club’s whole community – club members and nonmembers – to pursue an Active Lifestyle award, such as the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, that will ultimately establish long-term, healthy physical activity habits. In this manner, Get Active America! supports the goal of the Let’s Move campaign, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, to inspire at least one million Americans to be active for 5 days/week for at least 6 out of 8 weeks. We are looking forward to reporting the great contributions of IHRSA members to the First Lady and her Let’s Move team.
We are also encouraging participating clubs to reach out to other local leaders to increase the impact of their efforts.
We’re anticipating that local governments will be interested in a Get Active America partnership in the spirit of Let’s Move Cities & Towns. Perhaps the leaders of local faith communities will be eager for IHRSA clubs to sign up their members for an Active Lifestyle award and share the message of health and wellness. And, certainly, there must be a local service organization near every club that could benefit from a warm-up exercise and healthy living discussion before its next meeting, no?
Of course, participating clubs will also connect directly with youth and seniors. We’re recommending that clubs offer to bring Get Active America to schools and senior centers through classes or seminars. Or, better yet, invite young people and seniors to pursue an Active Lifestyle award by, for example, offering use of the club at discounted rates during off-peak hours.
The outreach possibilities are limited only by imagination. We know that participating clubs may run into a logjam of local bureaucracy or shortsighted skeptics, but they are empowered by the truth that a health club can transform the members of a community in a way that few institutions of our society can hope to match. Undoubtedly, health clubs provide a service – health and wellbeing through exercise – that is vital to any community.
We don’t know yet the ultimate impact of Get Active America, but we’re hoping that it will lead to several innovative community health models through exercise.
What are other organizations doing to encourage innovation in the promotion of physical activity at the community level?