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Be Active Your Way Blog

February Blog Theme

February marks another milestone in the movement for a healthier generation - the 3rd year anniversary of the Let's Move! campaign. This month, Be Active Your Way bloggers will reflect on work that has been done to combat childhood obesity, as well as the road ahead.

To celebrate the Anniversary of Let's Move!, you'll hear from:

Measuring Progress: Evaluating the National Physical Activity Plan

by NPAP October 20, 2011

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?

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National Plan

The Effort Behind Building a Landscape That Works for America

by ODPHP October 17, 2011

This blog post has been contributed by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

To health professionals, planners and transportation experts, active transportation (i.e. walking and biking as an alternative to car travel) is a no-brainer. Communities that facilitate non-motorized modes as safe and convenient options for getting from A to B simply function better. They have less pollution, their population is healthier, downtown business areas are more vibrant, and real estate values are stronger as their neighborhoods reflect what more Americans are demanding of their environments these days - diversity of transportation choices.

Not only that, but these facilities make economic sense too. A mile of paved trail can cost the same as just a few yards of urban four-lane road, not to mention the associated savings of non-motorized transportation stemming from reduced oil consumption and spending on reactive health care. This is why building environments that encourage walking and bicycling is a key part of the National Physical Activity Plan, and a major component of its strategies.

Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming support of the public health community, local planners and officials, businesspeople and residents, there are still some political and financial barriers to building these kinds of environments. For example, the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program was recently an agenda item during government budget planning. TE is the nation's largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling. Working with numerous partners, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) led an effort to ensure our elected leaders knew how important walking and biking options were to their constituents. In the end, vital active transportation programs like TE were preserved intact.

RTC knows it is important to secure adequate funding for active transportation into the future. So, what we know to be a public health issue - the effort to increase physical activity in our everyday lives - is also an effort of political will.

In an era of fiscal constraint, presenting economic benefits could have the most weight when discussing the issue with policymakers. With walking and biking, it is an easy argument to make.

Biking and walking infrastructure account for less than two percent of the entire federal surface transportation budget, yet account for 12 percent of all trips taken in America. And trail construction projects have been shown to create more jobs, and more local jobs, for every $1 spent, than road construction. This is both smart financial investment and good health policy.

The voice of the health community, which understands so clearly that investing in walking and biking could translate into a significant reduction in our health care expenditure, adds yet another dimension to a case that is already hard to dismiss.

The great work being done through the National Physical Activity Plan will only be realized as health gains if we are able to maintain funding and support for facilities that encourage biking, walking, and active ways of getting around.

How will you encourage the funding of facilities that promote active transportation?

Pictured: Community trails like the Hudson River Greenway (top image) in New York and the Ojai Valley Trail in California are crucial in providing transportation options for residents that incorporate health and fitness into their daily lives.

Want to know more about how RTC is working to build a better landscape for walking and biking? Contact Kartik Sribarra at

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Barriers | National Plan | Policy

National Physical Activity Plan: What's at Stake?

by IHRSA October 12, 2011

The National Physical Activity Plan is an ambitious, comprehensive, and vital blueprint for creating a more active culture. It embodies the principles and best ideas formulated by folks steeped in the urgent effort to increase physical activity among all Americans. Already it is having an impact.

But there is a significant barrier. And it is one that must be overcome before the vision of the Plan can be fully realized.

It is the misconception that the ultimate goal of the National Physical Activity Plan is to promote physical activity. It isn't.

The ultimate goal of the National Physical Activity Plan is to save lives - millions of lives - and to improve the overall health and wellbeing of every American.

It is a goal worthy of the full attention of policymakers and thought leaders. And given the staggering cost of obesity and chronic diseases in this country - coupled with the dismal forecast for the life expectancy of America's current generation of children - it is a seriously urgent goal that requires immediate action.

Last month, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held a high-level meeting to discuss the devastating impact that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are having around the world. Not surprisingly, they reached the very conclusion that prompted the development of our country's own National Physical Activity Plan two years ago:

The resolution that resulted from the meeting recognized "the critical importance of reducing the level of expsoure of individuals and populations to the common modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases, namely, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol, and their determinants while at the same time strengthening the capacity of individuals and populations to make healthier choices and follow lifestyle patterns that foster good health."

In a recent editorial published by McClatchy Newspapers, Joe Moore, President and CEO of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), connected the pressing nature of the UN resolution directly to the National Physical Activity Plan.

"As UN members formulate a coordinated strategy to prevent and control NCDs around the globe, we need to consider our own efforts," Moore wrote. "What can we do, as a united nation, to fight back the NCDs that we've let grow out of control in our own backyards?"

He continues, "Our country's first-ever National Physical Activity Plan lays out a vision that one day, all Americans will be physically active and will live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity. Its ultimate purpose is to improve health, prevent disease and disability, and enhance quality of life."

In short, the National Physical Activity Plan is about making America strong again.

And that demands attention.

What are your ideas on what else we can do to emphasize the urgency of the National Physical Activity Plan? How do we get policymakers and opinion leaders to pay attention? What is your organization doing?

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Barriers | National Plan

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