The theme for National Public Health Week 2022 is “Public Health in Your Place”. The work that health coaches and exercise professionals do every day reflects this theme, as meeting people where they are on their personal health and wellness journeys is a fundamental principle of effective behavioral change. If you haven’t already, National Public Health Week is a great time to expand the focus on “Where You Are” to your local community.
The American Public Health Association offers three suggestions for public health professionals, including health coaches and exercise specialists, to start thinking about:
- Being supported and feeling included in our social communities can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. This allows us to give back to the health and strength of our communities.
This is an area where health coaches and exercise professionals can make a huge impact. By finding creative ways to build a sense of community centered around physical activity and wellness in general, you can expand your reach beyond those individuals who seek your services. Events such as community health fairs are a great way to make your name visible in the community and emerge as a trusted resource for health and wellness information and services, all while making a positive impact on public health. Additionally, outdoor events featuring free group exercise are opportunities for you to demonstrate safe and effective ways to be more physically active in the community.
As people become more active and see their community – and you – as a source of social support, living a more active lifestyle becomes a little easier. This may improve the mental and physical health of both individuals and society as a whole.
- While there are public health resources available where we live, some barriers may make it difficult for us to obtain and use them. These may be physical, mental, financial, cultural and linguistic barriers.
Helping clients and community members overcome barriers to accessing health resources is another area where health coaches and exercise professionals can make a difference. It is possible that some people in your community may not exercise because they do not have the financial means to join a gym or go to and from a fitness facility. Or they may have physical or mental health conditions that limit their ability to perform exercise. Finally, cultural and language barriers may be the problem.
In all of these cases, health coaches and exercise therapists can meet people “wherever they are” literally. There is no reason to limit physical activity to a fitness facility. Get creative in reaching out to the community and offering opportunities to improve people’s health and wellness in churches, parks, school gyms, and anywhere else you see people congregate in the community. By eliminating the need for people to come to you, you help them overcome potential barriers to participation.
- Some societies have had a harder time than others. It is important to listen to the black community, other communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities. This way we can make sure that public health is fair for everyone.
This is all about ensuring equity in terms of the communities – and the people in those communities – who have access to resources and services. As you work to expand your reach into new communities, consider how your work can help address health disparities. Again, think creatively about where certain groups of people might congregate. Is there a public park easily accessible to people using wheelchairs? Are there churches in the community that tend to appeal to particular races or ethnicities? Are there resources for the LGBTQ+ community that might be interested in adding physical activity to their list of shows? When it comes to public health, fairness often means finding people where they actually meet and serve there.
It is important to note that many health coaches and exercise professionals are already improving overall health and thinking creatively about how to reach new communities in a fair and equitable manner. This type of work supports ACE’s mission to “move people,” as well as the goals of initiatives such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Active people, healthy nation and the World Health Organization programme Global plan of action on physical activity.
ACE is proud to be associated with these like-minded organizations – including the American Public Health Association – as they work to increase levels of physical activity and improve the overall health and wellness of individuals. This kind of collaboration and mutual support is exactly what is needed to achieve big picture goals like improving public health, but it starts with reaching out to one individual at a time and supporting them wherever they are.