What results do you expect when a group of movers and shakers in any field of human endeavor get together to formulate a grand plan? Whether that group includes politicians, academics, government workers, administrators, business people, it’s easy to be cynical. In a complex society, very little of importance is easily accomplished. Many meetings and many conferences bring forth many ideas. But real change can be elusive.
But there is genuine optimism among the organizers of the National Physical Activity Plan conference, being held in Washington D.C. on July 1-2. They feel the time is ripe for a national plan to be developed, written, and perhaps most significantly, assessed regularly with benchmarks to guage progress in the years to come.
"This conference will start where other conferences end," said Dan Bornstein, a graduate student at the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina, which is organizing the conference with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, many conferences are held throughout any given year, and participants leave energized and better informed. Whether any of that results in action is a question to ponder at the next year’s conference.
The purpose of the NPAP is to leave the nation’s capital with concrete plans on how to implement the major goals that are identified. The plan will be organized into eight sectors (public health, education, parks/rec/fitness/sports, business/industry, volunteer/non-profit, health care, mass media, transportation/urban design/community planning). The NPAP conference brings together an outstanding collection of physical activity advocates, some of whom have spent their entire professional lives trying to raise awareness of critical health and fitness issues that the mainstream is finally beginning to recognize as important - obesity, sedentary behavior in youth, making physical activity accessible to everybody, planning communities with an active lifestyle in mind, and many others.
The national plan, if handled well, can have a significant impact on how the United States as a country deals with these health issues. Clearly, health care issues are paramount right now, and in that regard conference organizers are right about the timing of this conference being right on the mark. Other countries have created plans, and it is encouraging to see the U.S. take a serious stab at one. Great job by Dr. Russell Pate at South Carolina for spearheading this effort, as well as the sector leaders and organizing committee that have gotten us to this point. It’s easy to be cynical, especially in Washington. But the work being done here is an excellent start.
Stay tuned over the next couple days, and get involved in the months ahead to make the national plan a success.