West Virginia is wild and wonderful! We live in rural Appalachia with its scenic mountain landscape and rich cultural heritage. While the people of West Virginia take great pride in the beauty of the natural surroundings and traditions of their Appalachian heritage, a number of disparities related to quality of life persist when compared to other geographic regions of the United States. West Virginia consistently ranks as one of the most disadvantaged in relation to a variety of health indicators including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These chronic health problems have multiple contributing biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. Faced with these realities, West Virginians must continue to work together to reduce risk for chronic disease and manage the associated impact on mortality, morbidity, quality of life, and economic viability.
Physical activity is one of the most important behaviors that West Virginians of all ages can adopt to improve their health status. The relationship between regular physical activity and reduced risk for chronic disease is well-established and moderate increases in physical activity offer significant health-related benefits. Unfortunately, a considerable number of West Virginians do not accumulate the recommended amounts of physical activity on a weekly basis. Our collective challenge is to find workable solutions to this public health concern that make a physically active lifestyle the easy choice for every West Virginian.
The purpose of this initiative is to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate the WV Physical Activity Plan. West Virginia is just the second state to undertake a strategic planning initiative of this type modeled after the 2010 National Physical Activity Plan. The aim of the WV Plan is to provide a strategic direction for physical activity promotion within the state. It is expected that the Plan’s implementation and dissemination will increase the physical activity levels of children and adults to meet or exceed national physical activity recommendations and to therefore improve the health and quality of life of West Virginians. These outcomes are dependent on the establishment of a culture that facilitates physically active lifestyles in every societal sector and geographic region, regardless of the various environmental, social, and individual barriers that people may face.
- Build capacity and strengthen relationships among the key organizational partners and affiliates.
- Facilitate the Plan development process and make periodic revision based on program evaluation.
- Manage release of the Plan as a state-wide media event and continue public relations efforts Provide central coordination for implementation, dissemination, and evaluation of the Plan
- Increase access to quality professional development opportunities across societal sectors
- Organize a biennial physical activity symposium to facilitate collaboration across societal sectors and showcase evidence-based programs
- Develop a web-based portal that digitally maps physical activity resources in the state and online clearinghouse with publicly accessible resources to support community level program initiatives
- Coordinate a state-wide cause marketing campaign highlighting the people, places, and programs of WV.
- Deliver targeted physical activity interventions for schools, communities, parks, and health care settings.
- Provide evidence-informed policy recommendations to enhance access to physical activity opportunities for all West Virginians.
- Document the Plan development process as a model for other states (process evaluation)
- Determine the short-term impact of implementation on physical activity behavior, public awareness, and policy change (impact evaluation)
- Monitor the long-term influence on state progress toward broader public health goals related to physical activity (outcome evaluation)
Plan Development & Coordination
Following a two-year development process, the WV Physical Activity Plan was released on January 19, 2012. In support of the official Launch of the Plan, activities took place throughout the state including a school-wide line dance by more than 100,000 WV students, signings of county resolutions and proclamations, and a variety of events at the State Capitol. At the Capitol, groups from around the state demonstrated a variety of physical activities, while sector teams displayed information on current programs. The WV Senate passed a resolution in support of physical activity and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a proclamation declaring January 19, 2012 as WV Physical Activity Day during a noon ceremony.
Based on our initial success and modeled after the National Physical Activity Plan, centered at the University of South Carolina, the WV Physical Activity Plan will be coordinated through West Virginia University with administrative oversight provided by the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences. As recommended by numerous contributors to the Plan, a new executive leadership board will be formed to provide overall strategic direction. The Sector Teams and organizational partners that have played such a critical role up to this point will continue to provide expertise and support regarding implementation, dissemination, and evaluation through periodic consultation and collaboration.
Plan implementation efforts will focus on the priority areas, strategies, and tactics recommended across societal sectors including support for programming at the local level, a state-wide cause marketing campaign, and advocacy efforts related to physical activity policy.
1Priority Area 1: School Based Programs and Initiatives. Implement multi-year programs to provide resources and technical support for PreK-12 school seeking to establish comprehensive school physical activity programs. (ActiveWV Schools)
2Priority Area 2: Public Awareness & Social Marketing. Deliver cause marketing campaign to promote physical activity using the people, programs, and places of WV as the background. (Be Wild. Be Wonderful. Be Active.)
3Priority Area 3: Community engagement & Environment. Establish demonstration centers at city, town, and state parks. Provide resources for local communities seeking to organize programs or events that promote physical activity (ActiveWV Parks and ActiveWV Communities)
4Priority Area 4: Institutional & Organizational Support. Provide resources for primary care physicians interested in writing physical activity prescriptions for their patients based on use of local and state parks. (ActiveWV Health Care)
5Priority Area 5: Policy. Collaborate with other key stakeholders in recommending and advocating for policy change related to physical activity promotion.
Plan dissemination efforts will focus on increasing public awareness regarding the WV Physical Activity Plan and its related priority areas, sector specific strategies and tactics, and key recommendations. An initial step in dissemination will involve increased access to quality professional development opportunities across societal sectors using both traditional and web-based methods of delivery. We also plan to build on the success of the 2010 WV Physical Activity Symposium by hosting the event biennially at Stonewall State Park and Resort. The Symposium will be used to highlight or showcase the numerous programs across the state that have been found to positively impact physical activity behavior and to provide a regular opportunity for professional networking across societal sectors. Additionally, we plan to establish a web-based portal that will map all state resources pertaining to physical activity including places, programs, and professionals. A related online clearinghouse will also include a catalogue of evidence-based physical activity resources that local community leaders across the state can access for use in their own programs.
Process, impact, and outcome evaluation will occur on an ongoing basis in relation to each Plan priority area (school-based programs and initiatives, public awareness and social marketing, community engagement, and environment, institutional and organizational support, policy) and strategic focus to determine program effectiveness.
The plan development process was supported by West Virginia University, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences; West Virginia University School of Medicine, CARDIAC Project; and West Virginia on the Move, Inc.