How can communities offer physical activity programs to best benefit the public’s health?

Dr. Greg Heath, professor and head of health and human performance, has examined interventions representing several strategies, including: community-wide campaigns, individually adapted health behavior change, community social-support, and the creation of enhanced access to physical activity information and opportunities.

“We tend to be more inactive and less active than Western Europe and the rest of the world, except Eastern Europe (former Soviet satellite countries). Less of our youth and adult population are meeting recommended levels of physical activity compared with Western Europe, Scandinavia, and other countries,” said Heath. “We tend to have higher levels of overweight and obesity compared with other economically developed nations. Our overall health ranking is 28th. We’re the fattest and least active nation on earth.”

Heath co-authored the paper “Cost Effectiveness of Community-Based Physical Activity Interventions,” which was recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Larissa Roux from the University of Calgary was the lead author.

Selected from among 700 submissions by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the paper earned the center’s Charles C. Shepard Award, the highest honor for a scientific paper submitted in prevention.

Heath presented his results in Guatemala at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America (INCAP) and Panama. See how the U.S. compares in the United Health Foundation’s rankings at www.americashealthrankings.org/2008/othernations.html .

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