Dear Physical Activity Professional,
We are living in changing times. In predictions about future public health funding, uncertainty appears to be the word of the day. In that light, I offer the following points of optimism for our field:
- Funding for physical activity strategies in public health has never been commensurate with their potential impact. Yet through you -- the people dedicated to this work -- your perseverance, commitments, and partnerships -- we make progress daily. If need be, we will continue doing a lot with little. Our voices are more important than ever.
- Interest at the local level to build walkable communities and increase opportunities for active living is on the rise. The factors that drive local areas to address walkability -- improved access to businesses, quality of life, attraction for businesses and young families, pride in hometowns, and more -- will continue to resonate with small towns and large cities alike. Communities that make these changes do so because they see the multiple intersecting benefits.
- Physical activity is one area where public health and industry are aligned. The industries that want people to get more active have messages that public health people support. This sets physical activity apart from other primary risk factors.
- The lobbyists aren’t giving up. We at NPAS don’t have a government relations arm, but we do pay attention to what’s happening in Washington. Health organizations are working together to continue their advocacy for physical activity causes and funding. If you are interested in getting news regarding the Prevention and Public Health Fund (and much more), sign up for TFAH’s news digest.
- The United States already has a National Physical Activity Plan to implement. Tremendous work has gone into developing and honing strategies and tactics that make a difference, and most of the people reading these words are working on some aspect of that plan in their daily work. Even with low funding, we know what needs to be done, and a wide variety of partners are mobilizing to do it.
- The Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee is already commissioned and well underway, having held two of its five meetings. We expect the 2017 meetings to continue as planned, with the committee members culling and synthesizing the best scientific data available. The public comment period is open, if you have lines of inquiry or concerns you would like to see addressed.
- Physical activity is more often being recognized within public health. One of the American Public Health Association's top ten news stories for 2016 is an interview with Loretta DiPietro on the global pandemic of inactivity.
- Physical activity doesn’t cost anything -- or at least not much. A good pair of shoes helps, and there are lots of things you can buy to be more comfortable while getting your move on. Cost-effective strategies to improve health could become more important if funding for services is in question. We just might need to draw the link.
- The National Walking Summit and the Active Living Research conference: Opportunities to gather, learn from each other, hear successes, and work collaboratively. And many other partners, formerly called "nontraditional," are including health at their own conferences.
- Driverless cars. I posit this not so much an argument for or against this particular technology, but as a reminder that we don’t always know what’s coming that will reshape our world. Around the turn of the 20th century, the horse manure problem in cities was unsolvable -- until the automobile came along. In 1990, how many people predicted that the next decade would bring (a) the widespread connection of everyone through the World Wide Web and (b) mobile phones on almost every person?
Many people I've talked with lately have had difficulty maintaining their optimism while pondering uncertainty about the future. If this happens to you, consider one or more of the above factors when the urge to catastrophize strikes. ... and then take a walk; it will help you feel better.
Pam Eidson, MEd, PAPHS