Introducing the Technical Assistance Project

To help communities improve the health of their residents, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) today introduced the American Fitness Index® () Technical Assistance Project. With support from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, the Technical Assistance Program will be piloted in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis will be the convening partner in the Indianapolis effort.

The new program builds upon the annual ACSM American Fitness Index® data report, which provides a health status snapshot of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The Indianapolis metro area has consistently scored poorly in the data report, ranking 45th with a score of 34.4 (out of 100 possible points) in the 2011 edition. The metro area ranked 44th with a score of 35.9 in 2010.

Contributing to Indianapolis’ low score is a high percentage of smokers and an above-average population with chronic health problems such as obesity, asthma and coronary heart disease. As a community, the metro area’s investment in park-related expenditures and facilities is on the low end. Additionally, less than two percent of residents bike, walk or use public transportation to get to their jobs.

The Technical Assistance Program will identify actionable areas with the best evidence for improving health and fitness at the community level and aims to make a community-wide impact quickly. The program will balance helping underserved populations with doing the most good for the most residents. In a October 17 news release, Chair Dr. Walt Thompson noted the significance of prohibitive smoking policies that can make an immediate impact.

The program begins with a series of interviews with community advocates and experts – identified by the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and the Alliance for Health Promotion – with keen insight into the health and fitness of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. The Bowen Research Center, the Research Division of the Indiana University School of Medicine, will conduct the interviews to get feedback on Indianapolis’ unique strengths, assets and areas of needed improvement related to healthy living and physical activity.

Following the interview phase, ACSM will facilitate a planning session with a community team to address the key issues and create a strategic plan. A period of public comment will follow, allowing the community to weigh in on the plan. The community team will be responsible for implementing and tracking successes back to ACSM. ACSM experts will participate in the implementation phase and will share lessons learned and best practice solutions through the program.

In addition to Indianapolis, the pilot program will be conducted with community leaders in Oklahoma City in 2011. The goal is to add four additional cities in 2012 and 2013 respectively, bringing the total to ten cities that will receive tailored technical assistance.