A Decade Later: People with Disabilities Now at the Table in the Development of New U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
The report was published and federal and local officials have been advocating the '30-minutes per day' physical activity mantra for the past 12 years. But government officials are starting to recognize that 30 minutes per day might not be enough to combat the rising tide of obesity and type 2 diabetes that is sweeping across the nation like a hot knife through butter. These and other health conditions have prompted federal officials to revisit the national guidelines. No one is quite sure what to do about this epidemic, but clearly, physical activity has a central role in any effort to improve the health of our nation.
The Department of Health and Human Services is once again taking the lead on examining the evidence and reanalyzing the national physical activity guidelines. This time around, however, people with disabilities will be at the table, which I believe is the result of the CDC's clairvoyance in funding the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) back in 1999. NCHPAD has provided greater visibility on the importance of physical activity for people with disabilities and has given those of us in the disability and health field a platform to represent over 50 million Americans who have a disability.
On October 26, 2006, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced that the Department of Health and Human Services would develop comprehensive guidelines, drawn from science, to help Americans fit physical activity into their lives. Secretary Leavitt said, 'The physical activity guidelines will underscore the importance of physical activity to America's health and assist on the journey to a healthier life. Good health - wellness - doesn't just happen. Wellness has to be a habit.' Secretary Leavitt underscored the importance of shifting from a treatment-focused society to one that values prevention-based care. 'Treatment for chronic diseases accounts for 75 percent of what America spends on health care each year, and overweight and obesity affects an estimated 66 million individuals. Emphasis on the four pillars of the HealthierUS initiative -- physical activity, good diet, healthy choices and preventive screening -- is crucial for the nation's health.'
A meeting planned for the end of this month will examine the scientific literature relating physical activity to human health. The primary outcome will be the release of new physical activity guidelines in 2008, and this time around they will be more inclusive of the needs and concerns of people with disabilities. The advisory committee will include 13 members, each with expertise in a certain area of physical activity. One of the major leaders in the field, Dr. William Haskell, will be chairing the committee. Melissa Johnson, Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, will serve as outreach coordinator for the new Guidelines. The published report will provide science-based recommendations on the latest knowledge about activity and health and will have a major focus on identifying specific subgroups, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities. I was very fortunate to have been selected for this committee and will do my very best to represent our nation's citizens with disabilities. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, please feel free to send them to me at email@example.com.