Director's Outlook: Raising the Drumbeat for Active Transportation and Public Health

Deb HubsmithEvery year since 2005, the public health community has celebrated the first week of April as National Public Health Week, led by our long-standing partner affiliate, the American Public Health Association.  And this year, one of the main themes of National Public Health Week, “Providing a Safe Environment for Children At School,” resonates strongly with the goals of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and amplifies the urgent need to address physical activity opportunities for kids both at schools and in our communities.

PA Guidelines infographicThe Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Midcourse Report, released last month, continued the drumbeat for safer routes when it found suggestive evidence that active transportation to school and the built environment both play a role in levels of physical activity among youth. The report recommends several strategies that align with the core work of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, including educating and encouraging parents to participate with their children in active transportation to school and addressing built environment factors such as land-use mix, traffic calming, and proximity to recreation facilities as strategies to increase physical activity among youth.

Our movement to create healthy, active lifestyles and communities is gaining momentum every day and at every level. National leaders, including the Surgeon General  and the First Lady of the United States and foundation leaders as well as local champions, parents, and Safe Routes to School coordinators in your community, join a chorus of voices calling for safe, complete streets and healthy, active communities. Efforts among our partners, such as National Public Health Week, will reach a crescendo this month. Here are just a few examples of the great work happening around the country:

  • Taking heart! Today, April 3, is the American Heart Association’s National Walking Day, and employees across the nation have pledged to take 30 minutes out of their day to get up and walk. Many Americans have taken extra steps to raise awareness within their workplaces; you can, too.  Simply head out for a walking meeting one day this week!
  • Firing Up! We are proud to be a partner of the new Let’s Move Active Schools initiative with our Fire Up Your Feet program. Let’s Move Active School is managed in partnership with several of our national partners, including AAPHERD, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. It is exciting to work together with the office of the First Lady to engage individual champions and reach toward our shared goal of engaging 50,000 schools with 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • Making strides! The new federal funding realities of MAP-21 may present challenges to ensuring adequate funding for Safe Routes to School programs in your state, but there’s reason to persevere. In California, after Governor Jerry Brown proposed a budget that would threaten funding for Safe Routes to School, a strong group of walking, bicycling, health, environment, and equity advocates spoke passionately to the subcommittee about the importance of active transportation and Safe Routes to School. And the legislators on the subcommittees responded with strong support. There is still more work to do before the budget is finalized in June, but the sun is shining a little brighter in California after this positive work and we hope it shines upon the important effort in Minnesota with their state legislative Safe Routes to School funding bill. Check out this terrific youth advocate speaking out on its behalf.

We all have a role in supporting a strong public health system and putting prevention to work in our lives and communities. There is so much to celebrate and even more work to be done. Please continue to share your great work with us and we will continue to amplify the drumbeat for active transportation to school and for integrating physical activity into everyday life with well-designed built environments that encourage us all to move!