Dollar for dollar, what are the best ways for communities to offer physical activity programs to best benefit the public’s health?
From among 700 submissions, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention selected a scientific paper that compared best community interventions to promote physical activity in adults and bestowed its Shepard Award, the highest honor for a scientific paper submitted in prevention. Greg Heath, DHSc, MPH, Guerry Professor and Head of the Department of Health and Human Performance at UTC was co-author of 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.
Heath presented results from the paper in Guatemala at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America (INCAP) and Panama. He says the US is behind in levels of physical activity and worldwide, the United States weighs in with a ranking of 28th in overall health.
“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. 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 said.
Heath’s task at the INCAP symposium was to provide insights into cost-effective strategies to promote physical activity that can be included in national, regional and local efforts to prevent obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Additional presenters examined healthy eating and nutritional strategies. The information from the symposium will be used as part of the planning process for chronic disease prevention in each of the member countries as well as in Caribbean countries.
INCAP was founded 60 years ago to address malnutrition and infectious disease control in Central America. Its first director was Dr. Nevin Scrimshaw, a U.S. physician and scientist who had trained in Panama (US Zone) and was drawn to public health efforts in the region. After 12 years at INCAP, he went on to found the nutritional sciences program at MIT in Boston.
“At 91 years he was present for last week’s meetings, accompanied by his 90 year old wife, Mary. So, it was both an honor and privilege to present our findings on such an auspicious occasion,” Heath said.
The meeting also marked the 40th anniversary of INCAP’s longitudinal studies on nutrition and health in Central America.
“These studies are ongoing and are now collecting information about the nutritional and health status of the 2nd and 3rd generation of families from the original cohort in eastern Guatemala. These studies are significant and have no doubt contributed to the unprecedented improvement in life expectancy and health-related quality of life for residents in this economically developing region of the Americas,” Heath said.
See how the US compares in the United Health Foundation’s rankings at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/2008/othernations.html