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Model Letter Commends Report and Urges Further Action
November 26, 2012
The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity has sent the following letter to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the proposed update report on the Physical Activity Guidelines. Organizations are encouraged to use this letter to tailor their own comments in support of the proposed report or to attach it to their own letters of endorsement. Comments on the draft report are due to HHS by December 10th.
For additional information, please contact Melissa Merson, Executive Director of NCPPA at MMerson@ncppa.org or 202 578-8618.
Katrina Butner, PhD, RD, ACSM, CES
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Department of Health and Human Services
1101 Wootton Parkway, Suite LL100
Rockville, MD 20852
Dear Dr. Butner:
On behalf of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the draft Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Mid-course Report: Strategies for Increasing Physical Activity Among Youth. We wholeheartedly support the Physical Activity Guidelines (PAGs) for Americans as our highest public policy priority.
NCPPA represents a diverse blend of associations, health organizations and private corporations and is a leading force in promoting physical activity and fitness initiatives and advocating for policies that encourage Americans of all ages to become more physically active. Organized in 1995, the coalition also is responsible for policy advocacy for the National Physical Activity Plan aimed at increasing physical activity in all segments of the American population.
NCPPA’s member organizations (See attached) reach millions of Americans and we are committed to promoting the PAG recommendations in every outlet and by every available medium and advocating for them in every appropriate forum. We are uniquely qualified to assist in this effort and pledge our organizational support to promote the guidelines as broadly as possible and to help educate the country about them.
This mid-course report will provide an opportunity to re-emphasize the PAGs while highlighting strategies to motivate children and adolescents to engage in physical activity. It is important to note, however, that as a coalition that includes many science-based organizations, we are concerned that as research and new scientific findings regarding physical activity continue to emerge, a more complete examination of the preponderance of evidence still is needed to update the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Current assessment of NHANES data indicates that the behavioral factors currently with the greatest need for improvement are physical activity, diet and body weight. The importance of these factors in moving more individuals towards ideal health highlights the need for reports such as the mid-course update, as well as a more complete review. These efforts potentially have a far-reaching impact through the creation of the right programs and policies to drive behavior change.
NCPPA commends the subcommittee for addressing physical activity in all five critical settings for children – community, home and family, preschools and schools, and the primary care environment. We also commend the subcommittee for including children ages 3-5 in its report even though this age group originally was not included in the PAGs. This sub-group of the population along with parents and caregivers represents an important target for early intervention and the establishment of lifelong healthy behaviors.
We support further policy development that would include physical activity standards for pre-school and child care centers tied to licensing, teacher training, and programming. We also would support policy development for before and after school programs. The addition of physical activity standards, teacher training and outcome assessment will increase the evidence base and provide further rationale for these programs.
NCPPA endorses the subcommittee’s recommendations for the importance of enhanced physical education in all schools. Quality physical education will engage students in health-promoting physical activity and teach them the knowledge and skills necessary for lifetimes of physical activity.
NCPPA suggests you also consider in the mid-course report:
- ·Inclusion of language stressing the importance of assessing health and fitness in physical education programs. The recent addition of FITNESSGRAM® to the President’s Youth Fitness Program allows states the opportunity to collect aggregate data on the health and fitness of children consistent with school districts across the country, providing an important assessment and baseline for communities, educational leaders, parents, and policy makers.
- ·Inclusion on Page 2. Line 48 of physical education as a central component of childhood education with outcome measures similar to math and reading.
- ·Inclusion in Table 1 on Page 5, of an additional statement on appropriate training for physical education teachers to prepare them with an appropriate, rigorous course background along with experiential learning to prepare them to teach enhanced physical education.
- ·Inclusion in Table 1 on Pages 5 and 6, under “next steps for research,” language calling for longitudinal, observational studies to delineate the influence of family activity patterns/habits on success of PE interventions.
- ·Inclusion of a policy recommendation stressing the importance of prioritizing physical education, rather than cutting it, as school districts under fiscal constraints make critical budgetary decisions.
NCPPA agrees with the subcommittee’s effort to underscore the importance of policy and programming to achieve the PAGs. The report also should emphasize the importance of implementing policy after it is established, effectively evaluating it, and assessing success as well as any unintended consequences. For example, state legislation to require enhanced physical education in schools will be successful only if it is fully adopted in all districts without substitutions or waivers.
NCPPA supports the subcommittee’s recommendation to integrate technology and social media to reach children with key messages. We further agree that additional evidence and approaches are needed to understand the potential of active gaming to decrease sedentary behavior and/or increase physical activity in children.
NCPPA also supports the active transportation recommendations, especially Safe Routes to School. We recommend the inclusion of some additional wording on overcoming safety and liability issues, as these sometimes are a barrier to implementation.
The family and home environment play a preeminent role in establishing lifelong exercise and regular physical activity habits in children. We agree that more research will determine the best ways to improve physical activity opportunities for children and expose them to a variety of activities in different settings. The mid-course report should stress that this is an area where addressing social equity is critically important – where issues that go beyond physical activity such as built environment, crime, education, health care access, and unemployment – often are more important in determining whether families have the time or inclination to exercise together. Those of us in the public health community must acknowledge and work to mitigate these issues within our own work to achieve the PAGs.
Regarding the subcommittee conclusion that there is insufficient evidence for improving existing school design to motivate children to be physically active, NCPPA recommends the report underscore the importance of facility design in future school construction and the need to incorporate health impact assessments into school construction projects to increase the evidence base around the importance of design/construction on physical activity in schools. Schools also should integrate physical activity and physical education into their long-term strategic plans to hold their own institutions accountable for improving academic achievement as well as the health and well being of their students. Multiple studies have shown the positive link between physical fitness and academic performance, attendance, and behavior.
A special issue of The Lancet in July characterized current levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behavior across the globe “as pandemic, with far-reaching health, economic, environmental, and social consequences.” Sedentary behavior is but one example of an area of research that must be incorporated into a complete revision of the PAGs by 2018. The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity along with other public health partners, will be advocating for Congress to enact legislation that requires regular revision and update of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to update the evidence base, maintain the United States’ preeminent role in developing and summarizing the science around physical activity and fitness globally, and determining how best to communicate to Americans the importance of integrating exercise into their daily lives.
NCPPA congratulates the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition (PCFSN), and the subcommittee for its excellent mid-course report on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
We look forward to assisting your efforts in communicating this report when it is released and invite you to share with us how we might best support your efforts in this regard.
If you have any questions or need any additional information regarding the policy recommendations, please contact NCPPA President Laurie Whitsel, Ph.D., at 724-238-0272 or via e-mail at email@example.com. To engage our support for communications and education efforts, please contact me directly at 202-578-8618 or via e-mail at MMerson@NCPPA.org. Thank you for considering our views.
- American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance
- American Cancer Society
- American College of Sports Medicine
- American Council on Exercise
- American Heart Association
- IDEA Health and Fitness
- International Health, Racquet, & Sports Club Association
- MEND Foundation
- National Academy of Sports Medicine
- National Athletic Trainers Association
- National Council on Strength and Fitness
- National Recreation and Park Association
- United States Tennis Association
- YMCA of the USA