By Dr. Jim Sallis
I just attended a highly-motivational PHA Summit, highlighted by a rousing talk from First Lady Michelle Obama. I will share the big physical activity news at the Summit. There were three announcements. The first happened the previous week when PHA announced Let’s Move Active Schools. This is a partnership of several organizations that will provide small grants to schools to increase physical activity. The big news was Nike’s contribution of $50 million to support this program over five years. I think it is significant that a company is making a commitment at this level to school physical activity. My hope is that some schools can leverage the small grant into sufficient funds to train teachers in evidence-based programs like SPARK that will create long-lasting improvements.
The second announcement was that Reebok made a $30 million commitment to expanding its BOKS before school program. Perhaps other sporting goods companies will realize that investing in physical activity programs is good for their companies as well as great for kids.
The third news item was the release of the DHHS report, Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Youth. This was a literature review that confirmed that school interventions such as comprehensive multi-component programs and active physical education are the approaches with the best evidence of effectiveness. There was suggestive evidence for interventions in preschool and childcare settings and for supportive built environments such as walkable neighborhoods, parks, and facilities for active transportation. Thus, there are reasons to invest in these programs, but they should be evaluated. Other approaches such as family-based, health care, and after school programs had insufficient evidence in general. But of course there is evidence that the SPARK after school program does get kids active. This new report is getting a lot of attention and should convince more school administrators to invest in evidence-based physical activity programs. Use the report in your advocacy.
Related evidence was published recently in American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This literature review by David Bassett and colleagues computed the average effect of various youth physical activity interventions in terms of minutes per day of physical activity, mostly measured objectively by accelerometers or observation. Physical education interventions were at the top of the scale. However, PE by itself was not enough to provide the 30 minutes of physical activity that schools should be expected to deliver. Bassett’s findings can be used to put together a menu of programs, including recess and classroom activity breaks that can provide students the activity they need. In other words, school officials have many options for putting together a comprehensive approach that is appropriate for their needs.
Back to the PHA Summit. I moderated a session on physical activity programming that was well attended. I gave a brief account of my own background as co-founder of SPARK 23 years ago. I informed the audience that we demonstrated that SPARK was effective, and now students in many thousands of schools nationwide are benefitting on a daily basis. The three speakers represented Up2Us, PlayWorks, and the Y of Greater New York City. They are all doing great work, but SPARK is reaching more students than any of their programs. We need multiple ways of getting kids active, but I’m proud to be associated with SPARK, which continues to innovate and lead the field.
I encourage all of you to check out the website for the PHA Summit and stay in contact with the leading organizations in the childhood obesity prevention and physical activity promotion movement. http://ahealthieramerica.org/summit/about-the-summit/
One last thought. At the recent Active Living Research Conference, we played the “Help! We Need PE” video written by Monica Lounsbery, starring our own Thom McKenzie, and drawn and produced beautifully by Tom Racine of SPARK. You will enjoy watching it, and you may want to share it with others. Two thumbs up. http://www.youtube.com/user/sparksandiego
http://sallis.ucsd.edu (see my completely renovated website)