Friday, May 14, 2010

Guest Commentary: Let's Get Moving

Laura Kimberly, MSW, MBE
Director of Special Projects
Jefferson School of Population Health

Prevention and wellness seem to be two of the health care reform buzzwords of the moment. Yet some of the efforts currently underway across the country indicate that a tremendous amount of energy is being devoted to thinking about the future and how best to create healthy communities where people thrive.

As we all know, physical activity is an important component of wellness, particularly in the face of rising rates of obesity and other associated chronic conditions. On May 3rd, the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan was released by an expert panel, including representation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

Philadelphia was the first city to formally endorse the plan, and on May 11th JSPH hosted an event entitled Moving Philadelphia! Creating Healthier Communities. The campus green was abuzz with exhibitors and physical activities for children and adults, including an outdoor spinning class, followed by presentations on physical activity and the built environment.

On behalf of Mayor Michael Nutter, Dr. Don Schwarz, Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and Health Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia, presented a proclamation declaring May 11, 2010 Moving Philadelphia Day.

In his keynote address, Dr. Schwarz discussed Philadelphia’s high rate of obesity and the many hidden costs associated with obesity and chronic conditions. He offered a particularly compelling example: at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, children too large for the CT scan machines in the hospital must be transported to the city’s zoo to use scanners designed for large animals. Dr. Schwarz noted the link between low physical activity levels and the built environment, stressing that communities must be made safer and more accessible to encourage recreation. To this end, as part of a Comprehensive Streets Plan, Philadelphia is working hard to increase bicycle and pedestrian traffic and reduce reliance on cars.

Other noted speakers included Allison Kleinfelter from the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity and Founder and CEO of achievABILITY, who discussed the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan in detail, and Richard Killingsworth, Senior Advisor at Nemours Health and Prevention Services, who explored the impact of the built environment on health and wellness. Both speakers issued a call to action, not just to policy makers and other key leaders and decision makers, but also to local grassroots organizations and to each and every individual. The push for change must come from each of these levels if we truly want to get our country moving!

What do you think about physical activity and the environments in which people live? Can we get people moving? To learn more about the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, please visit