September 9th 2015 the US Surgeon General created a call to action to get America walking. It’s almost a year later and he’s still asking for our help. So who’s responsible? Healthcare workers, public health officials, educators, business and industry leaders, mass media, parks and recreation offices, transportation and land use organizations, and volunteer and non-profit organizations.
There is no singular solution to this health problem that our state and nation are facing. There are many different barriers and many different moving parts that no one sector alone can fix, this will take everyone coming together, sharing resources, and working in a collaborative way.
The Surgeon General’s Executive Summary began by stating, “Increasing people’s physical activity levels will significantly reduce their risk of chronic diseases and related risk factors. Because physical activity has numerous other health benefits—such as supporting positive mental health and healthy aging—it is one of the most important actions people can take to improve their overall health.”
And why is he calling out walking as the solution?
“Walking does not require special skills, facilities, or expensive equipment and is an easy physical activity to begin and maintain as part of a physically active lifestyle. Most people are able to walk, and many people with disabilities are able to walk or move with assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or walkers. Walking has a lower risk of injury than vigorous-intensity activities. Walking also may be a good way to help people who are inactive become physically active because walking can be easily adapted to fit one’s time, needs, and abilities.“
So what can we each do to play our part?
The Surgeon General calls out sectors that very closely mirror the sectors listed in the West Virginia Physical Activity Plan so that each sector can play their part in getting Americans up and walking and ultimately improving the health of the nation. For those detailed to-dos see the “What Sectors Are Needed to Help Implement Community Approaches?” section of the Executive Summary.
He ends with a Call to Action that will involve cooperation and action from all sectors:
“Goal 1. Make Walking a National Priority
Goal 2. Design Communities that Make It Safe and Easy to Walk for People of All Ages and Abilities
Goal 3. Promote Programs and Policies to Support Walking Where People Live, Learn, Work, and Play
Goal 4. Provide Information to Encourage Walking and Improve Walkability
Goal 5. Fill Surveillance, Research, and Evaluation Gaps Related to Walking and Walkability”
So what is West Virginia doing well?
Check out the WVPAN Directory of walking opportunities that currently exist throughout the state and see how you can plug in or what you can replicate in your community.
Some great examples include the WV Gratitude Walking Group in Harrison County, Active Southern West Virginia Walking Groups in Nicholas, Fayette, Raleigh, and Summers Counties, and West Virginia Hike It Baby Chapters.
What resources can we utilize?
WVU Summer Steps – a competition among counties to log steps hosted by WVU Extension
Wild and Wonderful Walking Group Kit – a “how to lead a walking group” kit provided by WVU Extension
Walk With Ease – a program through the Arthritis Foundation in which someone can participate in the program online or become an instructor
Walk With a Doc – a program in which a local physician enrolls to host scheduled walks where he or she will walk with community members and talk about health education topics
Hike It Baby – a national program in which local chapters can be created for parents of infants and toddlers to meet for scheduled hikes in their area
What can we do better?
Get programs like these started in our communities, lift up and support the people who are setting the example for the rest of the state, advocate for more walkable communities, and keep moving forward to follow the sector recommendations laid out by the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and the West Virginia Physical Activity Plan. West Virginian’s will have to work together across all sectors to make public health a top priority if we want to effectively combat the health issues we are facing.
The West Virginia Physical Activity Network is here to help. Do you want to utilize one of the resources listed above but need support or aren’t quite sure how to start? Are you ready to step up and set the example for your sector but need guidance? Do you simply need someone to help promote your events or scheduled walks? Let us know how we can help, contact West Virginia Physical Activity Network Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org