Newswise — New York City – The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has announced a new global health initiative called ActivEarth (www.activearth.org). With an innovative, global-scale, science-based and science-informed approach, ActivEarth will focus on improving public health, the environment and the economy through greater levels of physical activity, particularly active transportation. The announcement was made at a civil society event from the site of this week’s U.N. Climate Summit in New York City.
“The American College of Sports Medicine wants to be part of the solution to two major global issues—physical inactivity and climate change,” said Dr. Janet Rankin, ActivEarth founder and professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at Virginia Tech University. “We will work across sectors to make it easier to be physically active through safe and accessible active transportation. Substituting short car trips with walking or biking can substantially reduce the production of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and also reduce health care costs through improved health.”
According to Rankin, the average person in the US spends 60 minutes a day in their car, about 27 percent of all trips are one mile or less, and only one-third of those trips are done actively.
“Active transportation may offer the most direct benefits for reducing emissions,” wrote co-author Dr. Jonathan Patz in an article published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Patz joined Rankin for the ActivEarth announcement in New York City. “With ActivEarth, where you build physical fitness into people’s daily routine, there can be an enormous public health opportunity that is also beneficial to our planet as we try and mitigate climate change.” Patz serves as professor and director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Rankin outlined four strategic imperatives for ActivEarth: Unite multidisciplinary thought and action leaders; leverage science and research to fuel substantive change; educate and mobilize stakeholders; and collaborate and advocate.
“The real key is collaboration across disciplines,” said Rankin. “We believe bringing together the environmental and economic sectors with those who have strengths in science and medicine will attract a wider audience and have a larger impact than just a single voice. Our intent is to bring together the best minds, develop strategies and share ideas with a variety of organizations, government officials and individuals with similar goals, but who view them through a different lens.”
Dr. Mary Pittman, president and CEO of the Public Health Institute, expressed her support for ActivEarth at the announcement.
“We see a lot of consistencies in the goals of ActivEarth and many of the programs of the Public Health Institute,” said Pittman. “All of our work is done in collaboration, so we see this as an opportunity to bring together many of the organizations that have these goals of addressing a healthy environment, safe practices for active engagement in communities and also addressing climate change. I’m really pleased that we can partner with ActiveEarth.”
While ActivEarth will focus on active transportation’s obvious effects on public health and the environment, it will also promote the cobenefits associated with economic development as well. “People want to live and work in communities and cities organized for activity,” Rankin said. “We know that a location in a walkable community increases the value of private homes and office space. In addition, a modest increase in active transportation could save 3 billion gallons of gasoline and more than $400 million in health care costs.”
Click here to view the interview with Rankin, Patz and Pittman about the announcement. You can also visit the ActivEarth website at www.activearth.org.