Our Village Can Help with This Plan

Hillary Clinton may have been criticized when, as First Lady, she said it takes a village to raise a child, but I'm going to take a cue from her and say that it will take a societal effort to turn around our obesity problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report showing that U.S. obesity rates increased 37 percent, and researchers detailed the financial toll of obesity.

Another study, referenced last month by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a speech to the Weight of the Nation Conference (the CDC's inaugural conference on obesity prevention and control), found that six in 10 Americans want to lose weight, but only three in 10 were trying to lose weight, and only one in 10 had a specific plan to do so. Obviously, people now know the importance of being healthier, but they are lost when it comes to how to help themselves.

That's where society comes in. Speaking at a press conference last month announcing the results of the CDC study, Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, said, “Reversing obesity is not going to be done successfully with individual effort. It will be done successfully as a society.”

Our industry has a way to participate in this effort: the National Physical Activity Plan. In 2006, a group of leaders in public health industries developed the concept of national physical activity guidelines and a national plan for implementation of these guidelines. Several countries and 12 states (Arizona, Colorado and Iowa are among them) already have their own physical activity guidelines.

The CDC and the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina are providing the organizational infrastructure for the plan. The group also has organizational partners, organizational collaborators and organizational affiliates, some of whom are part of our industry.

Eight working groups are developing recommendations for the physical activity plan, focusing on business and industry, health care, education, parks and recreation, public health, nonprofit organizations, mass media, and transportation and urban design. The plan is expected to be released in early 2010.

Russell Pate, the scientific lead for the national plan, said, “This plan will be aimed at launching a social movement that shifts the American lifestyle to one characterized by high levels of health-promoting physical activity.”

Can this plan work? Ninety-four percent of 1,000 Americans in an American College of Sports Medicine-commissioned survey say a national physical activity plan is important in helping citizens avoid chronic conditions and diseases. The same survey found that 97 percent of Americans think changes in the health care system that support disease prevention through physical activity are important.

My concern is that this time and effort will go into a 100-page plan that never goes any further than bureaucrats' desks. That's where you can come in. You can get involved with this group. You can lobby your representatives to ensure that they fund initiatives that come from this plan. You can help get the word out to your members about this plan. You can offer your thoughts about the plan to your local media so that they can get the word out.

For more information about this group and how you can help, go to http://www.physicalactivityplan.org.

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