The current situation with childhood obesity is the important role of exercise in addressing this issue. There are numerous unanswered questions related to the efficacy and economic viability of youth physical activity delivery systems. Physical activity programs that result in weight loss exist, but there has been no analysis of whether such programs are replicable, scalable and sustainable and if so, at what cost. Further, there has been no integrated analysis of the projected impact of related and supporting programs that might increase the likelihood of physical activity program success and sustainability, such as:
- local, state and federal laws and policies
- individual and institutional incentives
- media and public education initiatives
- role of fitness testing and effectiveness of various measurement systems
- role and delivery of nutrition information
This lack of a comprehensive assessment of the relative costs and effectiveness of various approaches to increasing youth physical activity levels inhibits the development of a strategic plan that can be used by educators, foundation funders, responsible corporate citizens, public officials and other interested parties to determine their appropriate roles and actions. Further, potential resource providers (corporations, government, foundations, trade associations and national education, nutrition, sports and physical activity-related non-profit organizations) for such a physical activity initiative would be more likely to invest in such a program if they were assured that their investment would achieve an intended result and they were able to estimate the return on their investment.
Key Questions that Must be Addressed
Effectively reduce childhood obesity across the target population group in a way that is replicable, scalable and sustainable.
- What is the target audience and why?
- What assessment of overweight and obesity will be used, what is the baseline data and how often will progress be assessed?
- What standards will be used to determine whether the outcome is sustainable?
- What is the rank order of the cost efficiency and effectiveness of various strategic elements and the minimum elements required to produce the primary impact, the initial and continuing costs of such elements, and the likely sources of sustainable revenues to support such programs?
Create a sustained increase in daily physical activity among children in target population groups.
- What is the research supported standard of physical activity (minutes per day/days per week and or fitness assessment measures) that should be adopted?
- What is a baseline level for “success” vs. what is ideal?
- Who are the mass providers of physical activity programs and what are the current physical activity levels of the populations they serve?
- What are the policy, legal and other incentives that could be implemented to increase physical activity levels to the desired standard and the cost of implementing such incentives (i.e., promulgating mandatory physical education laws, required testing, intrinsic or extrinsic incentive systems for participants, teachers and program providers, reduced insurance rates for corporations providing fitness programs, etc.)?
- Who are the model program providers that have already demonstrated the ability to produce desired physical activity levels and reductions in overweight and obesity; what are the economic costs of such programs, the possibilities of reducing the costs of such programs, and the feasibility and costs of replicating and sustaining such programs on a broad scale?
- What are the most likely sources of financial support for physical activity program delivery (i.e., state taxes on soft drinks or food products with high fat or sugar levels used to support physical activity programming, web centric collection and analysis of physical activity or fitness data, etc.) and are the sources sufficient to expand and sustain delivery at desired levels?
Create positive attitudes among children and their parents toward daily physical exercise.
- What are the most cost efficient and effective communications mechanisms that will reach the target population and their parents?
- How and how often will attitudes be measured and baselines established?
- What is the cost of launching and sustaining the initiative and the most likely sources of initial and long-term revenues? Is there a “fad” effect to the communications programming and if so, how will it be overcome?
- Who really needs a change in outlook? Can success come with kids only? What is the role of parents, school teachers and administrators and non-school program leaders?
Create greater nutritional awareness, knowledge and behaviors among the target population and nutrition providers.
- How and when will nutrition knowledge, awareness and behavior of members of the target population be measured and baselines established?
- How and when will nutrition knowledge, awareness and behavior of members of the nutrition provider population be measured and baselines established?
- What are the policy, legal and other incentives that could be implemented to increase nutrition awareness, knowledge and behaviors to the desired standard and the cost of implementing such incentives (i.e., promulgating policies and laws related to public school cafeteria and vending machine offerings, product packaging, intrinsic or extrinsic incentive systems for participants, teachers and program providers, etc.)?
Create a sustainable collaborative of organizations, individuals, private and public foundations and corporate partners with the necessary commitment to execute the national strategy.
- What groups are already organized and committed to addressing this issue?
- What are the risks and probabilities of long-term commitment by the individuals and organizations that are needed for sustainability?
- Who are the “champions” necessary to take lessons learned to scale and who can bring a coordination and unity among participating groups and organizations to successfully execute the strategic plan?
- Who is necessary to cause a shift in the existing paradigm and is it desirable for one or more food industry leaders to see that this happens?
- What are the specific opportunities of interest and benefit to the food, beverage and fast food industries that might encourage their financial or advertising support of such an initiative and the risks, benefits and costs of such opportunities?
- What is the optimum plan for the roll out of such an initiative? Do elements need to be pilot tested and efficacy demonstrated on a large scale (i.e., one or two states via a preliminary next stage grant)?
Read more: Benefits – Obesity and Physical Activity: The Foundation Position Part One
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