America Walks Comments on the National Physical Activity Plan Midcourse Report.

America Walks submitted the following to the US Department of Health and Human Services to provide comments on the National Physical Activity Plan Midcourse Report

December 8, 2012
Comments on National Physical Activity Report:  Midcourse Report

To:  Dr. Butner, US Department of Health and Human Services

On behalf of America Walks, we thank you for referencing evidence-based data in the Midcourse Report that elevates the significance of walking as a readily available activity that provides both physical activity and transportation options for America’s youth. We respectfully submit comments to the Physical Activity Guidelines Midcourse Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Youth.  

America Walks, a national non-profit organization dedicated to Making America a Great Place to Walk, is working at the federal, state and local level to promote walking through advocacy, programmatic support and technical assistance.  The Midcourse Report will not only elevate the importance of walking, but will help the many organizations working to catapult walking into a national movement that can reach all communities regardless of socio-economic status or geography.

The opportunity to comment on the Midcourse Report comes at a time when walking is at a pinnacle point.  On Wednesday, December 5th, many national, state and local organizations convened to discuss a national walking movement and how to implement a comprehensive, inclusive walking strategy.

Recommendations are as follows:

The Midcourse Report talks extensively about the benefits of walking from a physical activity standpoint, but only briefly mentions its benefits from a transportation point of view.  As a transportation mode, it fosters a cost-effective, active lifestyle. For many low-income communities who lack access to an automobile for transportation, walking becomes a “human right.” By ensuring that all communities: low socio-economic communities, communities of color, and the disability community have safe, accessible walking infrastructure, we also support a community that relies on features such as curb cuts, or audio enhancements at crosswalks to safely cross the street.

The Midcourse Report briefly mentions how physically active youth will be more likely to become physically active adults.  More emphasis should be focused on this concept.  There is evidence that more physically active adults have lower chronic disease rates, and as a result have delayed onsets of morbidity and mortality.  Delaying the onset of chronic disease has a direct impact on the economy and the health care system.

Emphasis on the built environment and the role of zoning codes and policies. The Midcourse Report makes reference to the importance of the built environment and place making, but the report should also highlight the role urban planners, transportation engineers and updated zoning codes and policies play in retrofitting or creating a built environment conducive to walking.

Walking is a Human Right!  As the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines are revised, ensuring there is an emphasis on walking should be given serious consideration.  The Midcourse Report is an opportunity to highlight walking and provide an entryway for the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines to address walking more comprehensively. As the evidence base for the benefits of walking grows, it is important that documents such as the Midcourse Report and the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines endorse and support walking and its many documented benefits.

Lastly, America Walks would like to extend its heartfelt thanks to those who have contributed your expertise and time to writing the Midcourse Report and for elevating walking and its many benefits.  Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments and suggestions.

Scott Bricker, Executive Director
America Walks