Voices of the NPAP
Genevieve Fridlund Dunton, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine and Psychology
University of Southern California
Chair, National Physical Activity Plan Public Health Sector Panel
What are your roles with the NPAP?
I have the pleasure of serving as the Chair of the Public Health Sector Expert Panel for the National Physical Activity Plan. The Public Health Sector encompasses public health agencies, state health departments, public health professionals, public health professional societies, and schools of public health within universities. We have an exceptional group of ten experts representing each of these areas on the panel. Public health strategies within the National Physical Activity Plan seek to promote physical activity at the population level by developing a trained physical activity and public health workforce, reducing disparities, disseminating evidence-based programs and educational materials, nurturing partnerships, and conducting surveillance and evaluation. Over the past six months, members of the Public Health Sector Expert Panel have been working to update and revise the public health sector strategies and tactics of the National Physical Activity Plan for release in 2015.
What's most exciting to you about the U.S. having a National Physical Activity Plan?
The updated National Physical Activity Plan to be released in 2015 will include a number of changes and improvements over the current version. One exciting feature is that it will include 10 year goals for high priority strategies and tactics. By establishing measurable goals in high priority areas, we will be able to evaluate the nation’s progress in taking keys steps to promote physical activity. Part of developing these 10 year goals involves establishing reasonable metrics to assess progress. For example, within the public health sector, we are currently assessing the number of states with designated physical activity units within state health departments. Once we know where were currently stand, we can develop a reasonable 10 year goal for increasing the number of designated physical activity units at the state level. We also are in the process of ascertaining the number of Master of Public Health (MPH) programs nationwide that offer a designated physical activity and public health track or specific coursework in physical activity promotion. Again, this information will give us a baseline to establish 10 year goals for increasing the number of these types of programs.
What will success of the NPAP look like to you in 3 years, 5 years? 10 years?
In the short-term, I believe success of the National Physical Activity Plan depends on how many individuals and organizations are aware of it and actively use it to guide policy and programmatic decisions. I would ideally like to see the National Physical Activity Plan become a living document with active links to tools, resources, evidence, and specific recommendations that individuals and organizations can use. Within 5 years, I think the National Physical Activity Plan’s success will be based upon the interim progress made towards the goals set for high priority strategies and tactics. These metrics will gauge how we are doing and identify overlooked areas that need more attention. In 10 years, I think the overall success of the plan will depend upon whether we see measureable changes in the rates of physical activity, sedentary behavior, physical education, and active transit in our national surveillance data.