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Policy Corner: Toward a Healthier Indy: The ACSM American Fitness IndexTM Technical Assistance Program

Community leaders and health advocates across the U.S. have embraced the ACSM American Fitness IndexTM as a scientific snapshot of the state of health and fitness at the metropolitan level. The fifth annual AFI report was released in May.

Phase II of the program, launched in May 2011, provides cities with technical assistance to improve community health and the data indicators that measure it. Oklahoma City and Indianapolis participated in the pilot year. The AFI technical assistance program aims to identify actionable areas that:
  • Have the best evidence for improving the health of residents;
  • Do the most good for the greatest number of residents, with a high priority on underserved populations, and
  • Can be changed relatively quickly as success measures.
Lessons learned from the pilot year will be integrated into a structured program inviting cities that rank low in the AFI to apply for technical assistance. The goal is to provide a total of ten of the most-in-need communities with tailored technical assistance during Phase II.

Working with leaders from the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and Health by Design, ACSM facilitated a highly successful technical assistance project in Indianapolis over the last year. Beginning in the fall of 2011, qualitative data related to Indianapolis’ health and fitness attributes, strengths and weaknesses were collected through interviews with approximately 30 community leaders. This feedback was compiled and analyzed with city-specific data from the AFI data report to identify priority areas for Indianapolis.

The YMCA and Health by Design invited a community team comprising numerous partner organizations to participate in two strategic planning meetings using root cause analysis and solutions mapping. After analyzing feedback from the strategic planning meetings, ACSM presented the coalition a strategic plan to improve physical activity levels, encourage healthy eating, reduce tobacco use, and foster built-environment initiatives. The Indianapolis community team will be responsible for implementing and tracking long-term success.

In May, the YMCA and Health by Design, along with other community partners, convened a rally and unveiled their new campaign, “Top 10 by 2025,” to share the coalition’s goal of helping Indianapolis rank among the top 10 cities on the AFI data report by the year 2025. Representatives from the YMCA, ACSM and the WellPoint Foundation (AFI’s funding organization), two hospital CEOs, the Indianapolis City-County Council president and others underscored their commitment to improve the health of Indianapolis by working together on initiatives and implementing the new strategic plan for the city. more

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