Background/Purpose An assessment of city government policies that impact access to physical activity across all sectors to identify areas of revision, recommend new policies and determine prioritization of such policies may support the public health objective of increasing physical activity to reduce chronic disease. This study analyzed the definition of physical activity used by local policy-makers to determine effects on the prioritization, development and implementation of policies that impact physical activity behavior and opportunities.
Method Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 key city officials in 17 departments identified by the Physical Activity Policy Committee, a sub-committee of the Shape Up SF active living coalition. Data were analyzed using qualitative methods within grounded theory guidelines.
Analysis/Results Physical activity was defined by policy-makers as health/wellness; alternative transportation; environmental benefits; open space; economic benefits; and active recreation and generally underutilized current physical activity guidelines. Using their definitions of physical activity, policy-makers recommended development of policies in: physical education (e.g. activation of joint-use agreements); open space (e.g. temporary parks); recreation (e.g. outreach to underserved communities); and active transportation (e.g. pedestrian network).
Conclusions This study determined that local government departments use a range of definitions of physical activity in areas that impact active living. Increasing policy-makers' knowledge of the standard definition of and guidelines for physical activity may support the prioritization of policies and projects that will increase physical activity opportunities and support public health outcomes. This project was funded by The California Endowment.
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