Connecting Active Living Research and Public Policy

Transdisciplinary Research and Policy Interventions to Increase Physical Activity

This introduction to a supplement in the Journal of Public Health Policy (JPHP ) recaps the 2008 Active Living Research Conference. The gathering of more than 300 professionals examined how better environments can encourage people, with a special emphasis on children, to be more active on a daily basis. The conference also looked at how research can be used to influence policy-making.

Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports the study of policies and environments that encourage children to be more physically active during their daily routines. The focus is on children most at-risk for obesity, those living in low-income and ethnic/racial communities. Reflecting that "researchers and policy-makers work in parallel universes," the theme of the 2008 conference was "Connecting Active Living Research to Policy Solutions." The articles in this supplement were selected from those submitted to the conference.

Key Points:

  • The JPHP supplement includes 13 papers on policy and environmental design, divided into three broad categories: transportation; schools and youth; and built and social environments. The supplement also includes a review of disparities in physical activity among U.S. teens and children; and four commentaries on using research to influence policy. 
  • The United States is far and away the leader in active living research, although study is under way in other countries. Obesity and physical inactivity are global problems; there is a great need for investigation beyond the United States to take into account country-specific cultural, climatic, and socioeconomic conditions. 
  • Doing rigorous research relevant to policy considerations and then effectively communicating findings will help research have an impact on policy-making.

Increased physical activity is good for health; and health organizations around the globe recommend creating environments that support physical activity in the course of people's everyday lives. The research papers presented in this supplement are examples of the kinds of rigorous, relevant research that can and should drive and inform policy. 

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