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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.

Spotlight on San Jose: Health and Fitness in Silicon Valley

Today’s post takes a look at the metropolitan statistical area of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara in California. The area is often called Silicon Valley thanks to being the headquarters of tech giants such as Apple, Cisco Systems, eBay, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Google, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo!.

Silicon Valley ranked 11th in the most recent ACSM American Fitness Index® () data report, which evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States. The metro area earned a score of 65.2 (out of 100 possible points) in 2011, moving up from a rank of 14th and a score of 61.0 in 2010.

People take their personal health seriously in the booming metro areas south of San Francisco. The area ranked 3rd on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care.

Silicon Valley has the lowest percentage of smokers (8.8%) among the 50 metro areas included in the data report. And residents of this region are good at getting their fruits and veggies – 29.3% reported eating 5+ servings of fruits/vegetables per day. The percentage of residents with chronic health concerns is relatively low, including a metro-area low of only 4.5% residents having asthma. Almost 92% of residents have health insurance.

The area ranked 24th on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Despite its average scores on built environment indicators, the area has witnessed a propensity toward Smart Growth planning principles. Walk Score recently ranked San Jose as the 19th most walkable of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

For a complete list of the Silicon Valley’s strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the website and download the San Jose report at www.americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

San Jose Skyline

Spotlight on Minneapolis/St. Paul

Earlier this year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released the annual ACSM American Fitness Index® () data report. This report evaluates the 50 most populous city areas and identifies the healthiest and fittest places in the United States.

For the first time, the metropolitan statistical area of Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington edged out previous leader Washington, D.C. for the top spot with a score of 77.2 (out of 100 possible points). The metro area ranked 3rd with a score of 71.7 in 2010.

Minneapolis-St. Paul took the lead thanks to greater improvements in healthy behavior measures and a reduction in the percentage of smokers. The Twin Cities ranked 2nd on personal health indicators related to health behaviors, chronic health problems and health care. The area ranked 2nd on community/environmental indicators related to the built environment, recreational facilities, park-related expenditures, physical education requirements and primary health care providers.

Several factors contributed to the Twin Cities’ top ranking. The area has the highest percentage of residents who report getting physical activity or exercise in the last 30 days (85.9%) and relatively low smoking rate (15.3%). In the Twin Cities, the percentage of residents with chronic health concerns such as obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes is moderate-to-low. Another factor is that 92.9% of residents have health insurance.

While the area reduced park-related expenditures this year ($203 per capita), its percentage of parkland is still above average (16.7%), as is the percentage of recreational facilities (other than swimming pools). Farmers markets in the area also increased this year, indicating a trend in healthier eating.

In a future blog post, we’ll look at some of the programs, attractions and projects that are working to keep the Twin Cities in the top spot. For a complete list of the Twin Cities’ strengths and challenges, plus a breakdown of the components that helped make up its score, please visit the website and download the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area report.