National Prevention Strategy-Active Living
The National Prevention Strategy refers to a comprehensive plan that aids in increasing the number of American citizens who are healthy at all life stages. The strategy was developed on 16th June, 2011 (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). Its strategic directions involve safe and healthy community environments, empowered people, community and clinical preventive services, and the eradication of disparities in health. Its main priorities are healthy eating, tobacco free living, active living, preventing excessive alcohol and drug abuse, violence and injury free living, emotional and mental well being, and sexual and reproductive health. For this paper, however, the main issue of concern is active living.
The National Prevention Strategy offers research and evidence-based suggestions for active living (Association of States and Territorial Health Officials, 2014). In addition, it identifies measures that important partners such as governments, schools, health care systems, society organizations, businesses, and individuals can undertake to put these recommendations into practice across varied settings. The strategy is put into practice through a number of actions and measures. These actions may involve the designing of safe settings and neighborhoods that are aimed at promoting physical activity such as bike lanes, sidewalks, walkways, adequate lighting, parks, and multi-use trails (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). They may convene partners such as architects, urban planners, developers, engineers, public health, law enforcement, and transportation to take into consideration the impacts of health when making land use decisions or when making transportation. The strategy helps in supporting early learning centers and schools in meeting the guidelines of physical activity.
Getting engaged in frequent physical activity is among the most important things, which individuals of all ages can do in order to improve their health and healthy living. This is because physical activity strengthens muscles and bones, reduces depression and stress, and eases the process of maintaining the appropriate body weight or to lessen weight if obese or overweight. It is important to note that the strategy also helps even those individuals who do not lose weight as they get considerable advantages from regular physical activity (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). These substantial benefits include lower rates of cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Healthy physical activity may involve activities that strengthen the muscles, activities to increase flexibility and balance, and aerobic activity. As explained by the Guidelines on Physical Activity for American citizens, adults are supposed to engage in at least two and a half hours, equivalent to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. On the other hand, teenagers and children should get involved for at least an hour every day .
The National Prevention Strategy provides several recommendations for all relevant partners on improving health and well being. In general, the recommendations are aimed at encouraging society development and design that facilitate physical activity. In addition, they help in enhancing and reinforcing early learning and school programs and policies that enhance physical activity (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). They enhance the access to affordable, safe, and accessible physical activity places. They assist in assessing levels of physical activity and offer counseling, education, and referrals. There are a number of things that state, territorial, local, and tribal governments can do in order to encourage physical activity. They can design and develop settings and neighborhoods that can promote physical activity such as bike lanes, sidewalks, walkways, adequate lighting, parks, and multi-use trails. They may convene partners such as architects, urban planners, developers, engineers, public health, law enforcement, and transportation to take into consideration the impacts of health when making land use decisions or when making transportation. In addition, they can help in supporting early learning centers and schools in meeting the guidelines of physical activity.
Businesses also can play a significant role in promoting active living. They can adopt programs and policies that enhance bicycling, walking, and the use of public transportation including bicycle tracks, changing facilities with showers, providing access to equipment and facilities of fitness, and walking paths (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). They can help in the designing and redesigning of communities to enhance active transportation opportunities. These may involve the inclusion of physical activity places within the structure and development plans. Businesses can also sponsor existing or new playground, trail, or park, scholastic or recreation program, or maintenance or beautification project.
Insurers, clinicians, and health care systems have a major role to play in promoting active living. They should carry out physical activity evaluations, offer therapy, and refer patients to allied health or healthcare and fitness experts. They can also give support to clinicians in carrying out assessments of physical activity, therapy and counseling, and referrals such as implementing clinical reminder systems and offering training to clinicians (Rockeymore, 2009). Early learning centers, colleges, schools and universities too, have a role to play. They can offer everyday physical recess and education that is focused on maximizing the time for people to be physically active. In addition, they can take part in testing fitness and support personalized plans of self improvement. They can support programs of bike and walk to schools such as the Safe Routes to School Program and partner with the local governments in making decisions on choosing school sites which can enhance physical activity (Rockeymore, 2009). They can make facilities of physical activity available and accessible to the local community. Furthermore, they can restrict passive screen time.
Community-based, faith-based, and non-profit organizations can provide low or no-cost programs of physical activity. These may include physical activity clubs and intramural sports. They can design and implement policies and agreements which address concerns of liability and promote joint use of facilities of physical activity such as society recreation centers and school gymnasiums. In addition, they can provide opportunities for physical activity all through the lifespan including classes for aerobics and muscle strengthening exercise for adults. In all this, the individual has the biggest role to play since he or she is responsible for his or her health. Individuals should engage in at least two and a half hours, equivalent to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week (Rockeymore, 2009). On the other hand, teenagers and children should get involved in physical activity for at least an hour every day. Individuals should consider following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for restricting the time spent by children on the television. Individuals should enhance aerobic activities with activities of strengthening the muscles on at least two days per week that involve all important muscle groups.
Apart from the National Prevention Strategy, there are other programs that have been developed by various organizations such as the World Health Organization across the world that offer guidelines on active living. Such programs acknowledge that physical activities can lower blood pressure, the level of sugar in blood, relieving stress, strengthening the heart, increasing lung capacity, help in sleep, controlling weight, and improving the circulation of blood in the body. According to (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006), there are a number of steps that should be followed in physical activity. First, people should make physical activity part of their daily life and routine. They should begin by doing what they are already doing, that is walking whenever they can. It is important to treat the feet and acquire an appropriate pair of shoes for this. In physical activity, it is important to begin slow, and build up gradually. For individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, their guidelines for physical activity are a bit different. They should be aware that moderate-intensity activities will cause them to breather harder and sweat a little. Such activities like bicycling and brisk walking will result to this. On the other hand, vigorous- intensity physical activities like fast swimming and cross-country skiing, will result in “out of breath” and sweat for the individual.
It is important to note that doing physical activities with friends can help the individual maintain an everyday routine of physical activity. One should identify an activity that he or she likes and keeps doing and one that will keep the individual physically active regardless of the weather conditions. Patients should record their measurements on a chart and update after check-ups in order to see their progress (Strunk, 2009). The measurements to be recorded are weight, height, waist girth, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Brisk walking is an appropriate moderate-intensity physical activity. How fast the brisk is depends on the individual. However, on average it implies walking 3 to 4 miles an hour. Walking can be done anytime, anywhere, and there are no special equipment needed to do this (Strunk, 2009). If one is planning to start a program of exercise which is more engaging than brisk walking, they should consult their healthcare providers in the first case.
The inactivity problem cannot, however, be ignored because it is real (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006). Governments face a rapid rise in the levels of chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity. Civil leaders can help in addressing such problems by offering opportunities for active living and physical activity that improve the vitality and health of citizens and cities (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006). Even though regions and countries differ greatly, two thirds of the people aged 15 and older in the European Union are physically inactive when looking at the given recommendations. All through the WHO European Region, every one in five people are involved in no or little physical activity and there are higher inactivity levels especially in the eastern part of the area (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006). In Europe, only around a third of children who attend school seem to meet the guidelines on physical activity that are recognized. The devastating findings indicate a continual decrease in physical activity among individuals of all age groups in the past several years. This is because of the work and everyday tasks’ mechanization, the increase in the use of cars instead of cycling or walking, the use of devices that save labor or energy, the increase of sedentary work, and the rise in inactive leisure activities including the use of computers and watching television.
Low involvement in physical activity that enhances health has substantial effects on the health of individuals. Physical inactivity, for instance, physical inactivity results in an approximation of 600000 deaths each year within the European Region and cause a loss of 5.3 million healthy life expectancy years each year because of disability and premature mortality. In addition, physical inactivity leads to an increase in the risk of various chronic illnesses such as diabetes, particular types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006). Besides human suffering, governments have to also deal with the financial or economic burdens related to these conditions and diseases. According to a study in England, the annually physical inactivity cost not including obesity costs were at17.5 billion Euros. Based on this research and a similar one carried out in Switzerland, it was estimated that it physical inactivity costs each individual between 220 and 440 Euros per year (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006). Besides changes in diet, decreasing involvement in physical activity has significantly resulted in the increase of levels of obesity not only in Europe, but also in other regions with high levels of physical inactivity, in recent decades. In a number of nations, more than half of the total adult population is overweight. An approximate of 14 million or more kids within the EU is overweight. Out of this number, 3 million are obese. Each year, the number of overweight children continues to increase. Programs such as The National Prevention Strategy have, therefore, been established across the world to identify and promote physical activity as among the fields of action to address the inactivity problem. These programs offer a common debate for all parties interested to share their experiences and plans in the search for physical activity, healthy nutrition, and the fight against unhealthy diseases such as obesity (Edwards & Tsouros, 2006).
Physical activity goes hand in hand with healthy eating, whose guidelines are also provided in The National Prevention Strategy. This is because one cannot be involved in physical activity if he or she does not eat healthy. It is, therefore, important for one to know the required way of eating healthy in order to come up with the desired results, which is active living that results in healthy living (Royall, 2009). Healthy eating can assist in reducing individual’s risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and some types of cancer, and can help people keep a healthy body weight. As explained in the American Dietary Guidelines, healthy eating implies eating a range of nutritious foods and beverages, particularly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat and dairy products. It involves limiting the consumption of added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. It means keeping the intake of fats as low as possible and balancing the intake of calories (Nocera, 2008). In addition, it means ensuring that the food to be consumed is free from harmful contaminants such as viruses and bacteria.
It is recommended that people should increase the access to affordable and healthy foods in communities (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). There should be the implementation of programmatic and organizational nutrition policies and standards. There should be the implementation of food supply’s nutritional quality and people should be helped in recognizing and making healthy choices when it comes to foods and beverages. The government should enhance food safety and support programs and policies that promote breastfeeding. The State government can promote healthy eating through ensuring that foods and beverages sold and served in government-funded institutions and programs and government facilities such as juvenile correctional facilities, prisons, and schools, meet the required standards of nutrition provided in the American Dietary Guidelines (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). The government an also reinforce standards of licensing for schools and early learning centers to include foods and beverages’ nutritional standards. This could be done through working with community-based organizations, schools, hospitals and other healthcare providers to implement programs and policies of breastfeeding. The government should ensure that businesses, health care, laboratories, and other community partners are ready to respond to outbreaks of illnesses related to food (Rokeymore, 2009). They may use zoning regulations, grants, and other forms of incentives in order to attract farmers markets and full-service supermarkets and grocery stores to all parts of the state and use disincentives and zoning codes to put off the availability of unhealthy beverages and foods particularly around schools.
Businesses too, have an important role to play. For instance, they can increase the access and availability of healthy foods and beverages. In addition, they can adopt programs and policies that offer break time and space for breastfeeding workers and give support and services of lactation management. They should offer nutrition information to their consumers and make healthy choices on foods. It is their responsibility to ensure healthy eating through reducing added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). Businesses can implement appropriate preparation, handling, and storage practices in order to increase the safety of food. Healthcare systems can screen for obesity through measuring body mass index and delivering proper care as per the guidelines offered. They can evaluate dietary patterns in terms of quantity and quality of food taken, offer nutrition counseling and education.
Learning institutions can enforce and implement programs and policies that enhance the availability of healthy beverages and foods and can also update equipment in cafeterias. This aids in the support of healthier foods provision. They can assist in offering nutrition education, implementing programs that restrict the promotion of unhealthy foods, and offering greater access to water (U.S. Department of Health& Human Services, 2014). The community can lead food policy councils at all community levels in order to assess people’s needs and expand policies that promote healthy living. They can enforce linguistically and culturally appropriate support and campaigns for ensuring healthy eating and healthy living (Puska, 2009). Individuals and families should manage their body weights through avoiding foods that increase this and eating what is recommended in order to promote active and healthy living.
Families and individuals are responsible for their healthy living. Active living and healthy eating can, therefore, be achieved effectively if people follow the standards and guidelines that are provided for this. The National Prevention Strategy has played and continues to play an important role in promoting the health and well being of American citizens. Active living is important as it helps in reducing the risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and some types of cancer. Countries across the world should implement policies and programs that promote active living. This is essential in order to promote healthy living among individuals and communities and reduce mortality rates among them.
Association of States and Territorial Health Officials (2014, January 3). National Prevention Strategy. Active Living.