Physical Activity & Public Health book coverObesity is a major issue in the U.S., sparking greater interest in healthy eating and physical activity. In response, APHA Press has released a new handbook. Called Physical Activity & Public Health: A Practitioner’s Guide, it will help local health professionals understand and integrate evidence-based strategies to promote physical activity in their communities.

APHA’s Public Health Newswire spoke with the book's editor, APHA member Gregory Heath, DHSc, MPH, assistant provost of health and human performance at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, about how the guide will strengthen the foundations upon which we can build more physically active communities and support train-the-trainer efforts. 

Q: What can you tell us about the new guide?

A: Lack of adequate, relevant physical activity is a major risk factor for major noncommunicable diseases or chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, stroke, breast cancer. 

One of the underlying messages here is that we have successfully engineered physical activity out of our lives over the last 50 years. We now have to re-engineer it back in. 

Q: What is the main point of the book?

A: That physical inactivity is a major public health issue. And it's not just in the U.S. It's global. What we want to do is we want to raise the awareness and consciousness (of) people in public health especially, but also others, that physical inactivity is an issue.

Q: Why aren’t people getting enough physical activity?

A: That's under a category that we referred to as determinants of physical activity. And generally speaking, the most common identified determinant is time. We look at adolescence and we see this very precipitous drop across high school years from 9th to 12th grade in physical activity. One is there's the time issue, but then two, opportunities for physical activity are not as prevalent as they should be or could be. 

When we talk about physical activity, particularly in this handbook, it's not just what we refer to as planned exercise or fitness, necessarily. It has to do with movement. 

Q: What can we do to lower child and teen obesity?

A: Much of it is driven by lack of healthy eating and inactivity. For us to really make any type of headway, it's going to take much more than a village to do this. It's going to have to be at the local level, because that's where change is going to take place. So it's a multi-sector effort to do this. It means, like I said earlier, re-engineering physical activity. 

Q: What else do readers need to know?

A: This is a tool to train the trainer. What we have attempted to do in this handbook is to provide the basis on which other organizations, other communities, can actually use the handbook to hold trainings and to modify it in terms of how it's used to build capacity at the community level to do physical activity promotion.

The handbook, hopefully, will not just be another book that sits on the shelf, but used as a tool for further training. 

Order your copy of Physical Activity & Public Health: A Practitioner’s Guide from APHA Press now. Heath will be signing copies of the book on Sunday, Nov. 3, at APHA’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo.

This interview was edited for space and clarity.