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Cross-sector policies and physical activity promotion: Working together delivers the best campaign results

This year, the world famous Medical Journal, ‘The Lancet’, published a series of articles on the physical inactivity epidemic. During the MOVE Congress 2013, the Council of Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in the USA, ParticipACTION in Canada and the European Cyclists’ Federation all confirmed and pointed to evidence to support this academic research. Together they presented shocking statistics from their country or region illustrating the point. 95% of children in Canada do not meet the recommended physical activity recommendations of one hour per day in Canada, 29% of children arriving in the school system in Miami district are overweight, and 17% are obese!


The common thread to the solution proposed by the speakers was effective working partnerships and cross-sector collaboration. Organisations working on their own have a limited sphere of influence, and not enough resources to tackle the widespread cultural and behavioural change required to reverse the activity level trend. The presenting organisations demonstrated how they reached out to secure support for their cause to increase the impact of their work.


Kelly Murumets from ParticipACTION, a national voice and actor for physical activity in Canada said, “you need policies to support physical activity in all spheres of society; from transport, health, construction and sport”.


To achieve this it is important to have allies who understand your vision and can get behind it, Bernhard Ensink from the European Cyclists’ Federation emphasised.


Cycling as an active form of transport is a growing trend, particularly in cities. It is no longer just the northern European cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam demonstrating this good practice, other cities such as London and Barcelona have seen significant increases in cycling in the past 5 to 10 years.


“To create an environment in a city which facilitates cycling you have to build a network; you have to work with a wide variety of partners from road safety to tourism to bike retailers. When opening dialogue with them you need to see the benefits of what you are asking for from the partners’ side. It is an ongoing collaboration to facilitate a conducive environment for cycling”, Ensink said.


All agreed that having the policies in place is not enough – you need action. There needs to be a strong implementation plan, where goals are aligned and communication targeted.


This was something Dr. Jayne Greenberg from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in the US spoke passionately about. She is currently working on ensuring that physical activity is embedded into the school lives of children in America. This means not only relying on the limited amount of physical education each child received, but making sure that other lesson time has space for movement, that there is active transport to and from school and that there is a range of choices for children to pick from to get physically active. This takes considerably skilled influencing skills to involve all staff, parents and school committees.


“Children are in the school environment for a minimum of 7 hours per day, they are a captive audience. Not only can you use this time to create positive habits, you can start to influence the family, and their habits”, she said”


Working in partnership is not something new. It has always been the easiest and quickest way to achieve results, but it is clear there is a growing trend supporting this model of behaviour change on a national and international scale. Examples from Nike’s Designed to Move programme asking sport for all, government and other stakeholders to align behind the their two key asks; make early physical activity experiences positive and integrate physical activity into the daily life. The ISCA led NowWeMove campaign, calling for organisations to contribute to the vision of 100 million Europeans more active by 2020, is no exception. Making your request easy to understand and easy to follow allows people to buy into the vision, and most importantly find the common ground for a more active healthy population.


By Katie Couchman, ISCA