What’s Your Role?
What’s Your Role?
As a public health professional, you can identify and implement evidence-based strategies to promote and sustain physical activity.
The public health sector plays an important role in increasing levels of physical activity in communities across the United States. This sector includes a variety of professionals—such as public health educators, nurses, program coordinators, and researchers—working in local, state, and federal government agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
Public health professionals have many skills that can help communities make it easier for people to be more physically active. Their areas of expertise include surveillance, research, communication, needs assessments, coalition building, community engagement, policy and program development, training, program delivery, and evaluation.
You can use the following strategies to encourage physical activity in your community:
Bring together residents, community leaders, and professionals from other sectors to promote the benefits of activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations and increase physical activity.
- Build coalitions where partners can learn from each other and develop action plans that efficiently use each partner’s expertise and resources.
- Educate professionals in other sectors on the benefits of physical activity and activity-friendly communities, how these benefits align with their objectives and values, and how to promote physical activity through their profession.
- Develop intergovernmental collaborations to increase physical activity and create activity-friendly communities.
- Set state or communitywide objectives related to physical activity and activity-friendly communities. Coordinate with partners across sectors to meet these objectives.
- Provide support to community organizations—such as technical assistance, training, or funding—to help them develop the skills of and hire physical activity specialists and empower individuals and communities to make positive changes.
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Create and share messages about the benefits of physical activity and activity-friendly communities.
- Educate people about the benefits of physical activity and active communities.
- Share information to help people add regular physical activity to their daily lives to meet national guidelines.
- Conduct audience research to identify the most effective ways to encourage physical activity.
- Develop effective, consistent, culturally informed messages and work with the media to share these messages.
- Visit CDC’s State and Community Health Media Center to find free or low-cost, audience tested campaign and advertising materials to support your efforts.
Conduct research and surveillance and evaluate physical activity programs to determine what works and identify disparities.
- Collect data about physical activity to measure and monitor changes over time. Use data to identify specific geographic areas or populations experiencing disparities in physical activity. Share data with other agencies and partners.
- Assess and monitor behaviors and environmental features (like sidewalks, safe streets, and protected bike lanes) that help people feel safe while being physically active. Partner with other sectors as appropriate.
- Conduct research to address knowledge gaps, including research that focuses on equitable access to physical activity.
- Evaluate community interventions designed to promote physical activity and active communities.
- Summarize and share findings about what community approaches work to increase and sustain physical activity.
Promote equitable policies and programs that make physical activity safe and easy for everyone.
- Include residents of different ages, income levels, races, and abilities during project planning to ensure that safety, access, and design decisions match local community needs.
- Work with other sectors to offer programs that address barriers to physical activity, including physical limitations and community safety concerns.
- Work with other sectors to ensure that residents have equitable access to places to be active and programs that support physical activity.
- Develop and promote programs and policies to increase social connectedness and social supports for physical activity.
Promote community designs that support inclusive, safe, and accessible places for people to be physically active.
- Collaborate with other sectors to design communities that support a safe, comfortable, and accessible network of active transportation routes. These routes should connect the places where people live to the places where they need and want to go regularly.
- Collaborate with other sectors to create short-term demonstration projects that show residents how proposed designs can expand pedestrian and bicycle access and calm traffic. These projects can use low-cost materials like paint, signs, and planters. Make sure diverse community voices are heard. Collect data to guide more permanent changes.
- Promote the availability of safe, convenient, and well-designed community locations and programs that support physical activity.
These public health professionals have used effective strategies to increase physical activity in their communities.
Creating Active Communities in Rural Montana
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services developed the Building Active Communities Initiative to promote environments that encourage physical activity across the state. The department partnered with other agencies and community organizations to provide training and technical assistance at the community level. It focused on creating plans and policies, such as Complete Streets policies, that make it easier for people to walk, bike, and wheelchair roll. After the training, communities developed action plans to help them with next steps.
Data and Transportation as Vehicles for Community Health Planning in Arizona [PDF-3.2MB]
In Phoenix, city and transit officials proposed a light-rail extension to connect low-income neighborhoods in the southern part of the city to downtown. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health worked with state partners to conduct a comprehensive health impact assessment as part of this project. They sought to examine health disparities in the affected neighborhoods and identify how the transit project would affect the health of residents. Their efforts also helped generate data and community-driven recommendations to achieve equity across the city. This collaboration established a relationship between the health department and the transit authority that led to other projects.
Move Your Way in Nevada [PDF-2.7MB]
The Southern Nevada Health District worked with local partners to host events and programs to create and promote opportunities for physical activity. It shared messages about the importance of being active in support of the national Move Your Way campaign, which promotes the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. Health officials customized their efforts by promoting local parks and trails that can help residents be more active.
Guidelines, Recommendations, and Strategies
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition [PDF-15.2MB]
The US Department of Health and Human Services issued a second edition of the guidelines in 2018 to describe the amounts and types of physical activity needed to maintain or improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
- Strategies to Increase Physical Activity
This website shares information and resources on how to increase physical activity at the community level.
- The Community Guide: Physical Activity
This website provides evidence-based findings and recommendations designed to increase physical activity from the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
- The Active Communities Tool (ACT)
This tool helps committed, cross-sector teams create an action plan to improve community built environments that promote physical activity and meet the needs of their community.
- The Built Environment: An Assessment Tool and Manual
The Built Environment Assessment Tool (BE Tool) measures the core features and qualities of the built environment that affect health, especially those that make it easier for people to walk, bike, and get other types of physical activity.
- Active People, Healthy Nation Multimedia Tools
The resources on this website can be used to promote physical activity and motivate people to integrate more activity into their lives and communities.
- State and Community Health Media Center
The Media Center is a collection of free or low-cost, audience-tested campaign and advertising materials, such as print ads, posters, videos, and photos. Materials are available in English and other languages. They can be used to support programs focused on chronic disease prevention and other topics.
- Communication Materials Resources
This website provides communication resources that chronic disease prevention and health promotion programs can use to guide and support their efforts.
- Communicating about Physical Activity: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Recommendations
This report shares challenges, opportunities, and strategies to consider when talking or messaging about physical activity.
- Public Health Reaching Across Sectors: Mapping the Gaps between How Public Health Experts and Leaders in Other Sectors View Public Health and Cross-Sector Collaboration
This report provides information about cross-sector collaborations centered on public health. It describes some of the barriers to collaboration between public health and other sectors, with a special focus on housing, education, business, and health systems.
- Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Data, Trends, and Maps
This interactive database provides national and state data on weight status, eating habits, physical activity, and breastfeeding behaviors in the United States, as well as information about related environmental and policy supports.
- PLACES: Local Data for Better Health
This website provides model-based, population-level analysis and community estimates for all counties, places (incorporated and census-designated places), census tracts, and ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) across the United States.
- Adult Physical Inactivity Prevalence Maps
These maps show differences in the prevalence of physical inactivity at the state level, both overall and by race and ethnicity.
- Trends in Meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines: Muscle-Strengthening Alone and Combined with Aerobic Activity, United States, 1998–2018
This journal article provides data on the trends of US adults meeting the recommendations in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from 1998 to 2018.
- Physical Activity Surveillance Systems
This website provides information about surveillance systems used by CDC to track physical activity behaviors.