Y-USA and other organizations launch new website to support Active People, Healthy Nation

By: Kelly Kennai, Senior Director, Communications and Advocacy Engagement

Government Relations and Policy, YMCA of the USA

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a new initiative with a simple goal: to get Americans moving. The initiative, Active People, Healthy Nation, supported by several national organizations including YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), seeks to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027, doubling the previous Healthy People 2020 goal. Supporting this program is just one example of what Y-USA is doing as a Partnership for a Healthier America partner to improve the lives and health of American families.

In support of Active People, Healthy Nation, and in conjunction with several partner organizations, Y-USA has launched a new website to provide information about creating activity-friendly routes to everyday places and a growing list of resources for active transportation and transit during COVID-19, such as public health guidance from the CDC around the physical and emotional benefits of physical activity. The website was developed as a collaboration between America Walks, the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, the League of American Bicyclists, Safe Routes Partnership, Smart Growth America, and Y-USA.

This new website builds on the great work already taking place under the banner of Active People, Healthy Nation. The initiative uses proven strategies and provides resources aimed at preventing and reversing chronic disease caused in part by sedentary lifestyles. One such resource is the CDC’s own newly designed and user-friendly website that highlights how Americans can incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives. For example, by incorporating physical activity into the built, community, and school environments, people can benefit from added movement by making minor changes. Additionally, the Safe Routes Partnership, a national nonprofit that promotes commuting to school and other destinations by walking or rolling, has teamed up with Y-USA on a third version of Making Strides: State Report Cards on Support for Walking, Bicycling, and Active Kids and Communities. These report cards evaluate each state across a total of 28 indicator areas spanning four core topic areas: Complete Streets and Active Transportation Policy and Planning, Federal and State Active Transportation Funding, Safe Routes to School Funding and Supportive Practices, and Active Neighborhoods and Schools. The 2020 report cards, which expand upon the 2016 and 2018 report cards, allow us to see where progress has been made, where each state is doing well, and where there continue to be opportunities for improvement.

Physical activity is always a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle, and all children and adults regardless of age, race, education, socio-economic status, disability status, sexual orientation, and geographic location – deserve access to safe and convenient places to walk, play, bicycle, and move outdoors. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much about how we live our lives, but now more than ever, it is imperative that people are able to incorporate movement into their daily lives. The new website launched by Y-USA and several partner organizations will support that goal.

As the country looks toward reopening, organizations of all sizes must prioritize health. One of the largest providers of childcare, afterschool, and summer programs, YMCAs are in a unique position to provide physical activity opportunities while also sharing best practices for health and safety, setting the stage for other providers to follow suit. A PHA partner since 2011, the national Y organization has been dedicated to: improving the amount of safe and accessible physical activity children participate in, especially those who are underserved and at-risk; minimizing the amount of time children spend in front of a screen; providing healthier food and beverages to the children in its care; and developing free swimming programs, with an eye toward water safety and “diverse ability” swim instruction for children at the greatest risk of drowning.

Kelly Kennai leads communications and advocacy strategies that tell the powerful story of the Y’s impact in communities across the nation. She works closely with the Y’s government relations and policy team to educate policy makers and partners, and engage YMCA leaders in advocacy that supports the Y’s cause.