The Role of the Public Health Sector in Promoting Physical Activity: National, State, and Local Applications

J Phys Act Health. 2009 Nov;6(s2):S159-S167. doi: 10.1123/jpah.6.s2.s159.


Background: Regular physical activity has been demonstrated to protect against coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, selected cancers, hypertension, obesity, and other chronic conditions. Therefore, the public health significance of promoting physical activity and preventing inactivity has become a well-established agenda for public health agencies at all levels.

Methods: A secondary search of the literature, focusing on existing evidence reviews, was conducted to identify effective or promising public health physical activity interventions. Further examination of published evidence-based programs also was carried out to supplement the known evidence base. Intervention strategies were selected using criteria prescribed by each of the systematic reviews to yield categories of intervention effectiveness.

Key recommendations: The selected physical activity interventions conformed to the domains identified by The Guide to Community Preventive Services. Recommended evidenced-based strategies from within the domain of informational approaches include 2 exemplary community-wide campaigns; mass media campaigns, represented by VERB; and an emerging practice of delivery of short physical activity messages at key community sites. Exemplary representative behavioral/social interventions include social support through organized walking clubs/partners within communities. Exemplary environmental/policy approaches include creating/enhancing access to places for physical activity with informational outreach activities and the emerging strategy of community-wide policies and planning.

Keywords: environment; health behavior; health promotion; interventions; policy; surveillance.