In recent years, evidence-based physical activity programs have become the gold standard for producing measurable health benefits and positive outcomes for older adults. An important national health promotion priority is to encourage the adoption of evidence-based programs and to facilitate the use of best practice principles at the community level to improve quality and ensure the safety and effectiveness of physical activity programming. In many countries, national health promotion organizations are considering how best to deliver information about evidence-based programs and best practice guidelines to community agencies and program providers. In September 2007, several U.S. national organizations convened an expert meeting to develop guidelines regarding how to share information about evidence-based programs with community organizations.
This paper will summarize the key recommendations and outcomes of this national meeting. In the 2-day expert meeting, breakout groups addressed important issues such as (1) the identification of tools and resources that communities would need to implement evidence-based programs; (2) best practice principles related to physical activity programs; and (3) resources that can help community organizations evaluate the effectiveness of their physical activity programs. The consensus report that emerged from the meeting concluded that numerous evidence-based physical activity programs have been developed that are effective in improving health and quality of life for older adults. Ideally, community organizations should be encouraged to adopt and implement these programs. However, when it is not possible to implement a specific evidence-based program, best practice principles can be used to improve the effectiveness and acceptability of an existing physical activity program. All physical activity programs, whether evidence-based or not, should include a valid and reliable evaluation component. National organizations that promote physically active lifestyles should (1) help organizations identify appropriate evidence-based programs; (2) ensure that programs meet standards of best practice; and (3) provide advice and training related to program evaluation. The paper will conclude with a discussion of how best to communicate this information to the aging network to assist these organizations to better serve the older adult population.