Voices of the NPAP
David M. Buchner, MD, MPH
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Which of the 8 Sectors are you involved in and why did you choose that particular sector?
In my work in physical activity and public health, I’ve been most involved with four sectors: Public health; Healthcare; Transportation, urban design, and community planning; and Parks, recreation, fitness, and sports. At the national conference, I wanted to attend all these sector meetings, but finally chose to attend the Transportation, urban design, and community planning meeting.
What's most exciting to you about the U.S. having a National Physical Activity Plan?
I’m excited because the NPAP has the potential to cause major gains in the health of the public. The NPAP will be based upon science, represent the consensus of stakeholders, focus on key strategies with the most impact, and provide a blueprint for how sectors can work together to accomplish shared goals. I’m also excited because NPAP is a key step in promoting a cultural shift. Our culture generally regards a person’s level of physical activity as a matter of individual choice. Though scientific evidence shows individual choice is important, the evidence also shows that our physical and social environments are important and influence levels of activity. An active lifestyle should be the cultural norm. Society needs to fulfill its role of ensuring that healthy choices are easy choices.
What will success of the NPAP look like to you in 3 years, 5 years? 10 years?
In the near term, success involves taking action. If NPAP is successful, some national initiatives will be launched that implement the strategies of the plan. We will see more state and local communities develop plans for promoting physical activity. These plans will build upon NPAP, and states and communities will take action to implement their plans. Over the next 10 years, the key indicator of NPAP success is higher levels of physical activity in the United States. Success if also measured by improvements in quality of life. As people become more active, fewer people will suffer from common chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. As we build communities with features that promote physical activity, our communities will also become “greener” and more livable.