Physical Activity Implementation Guide
Boosting physical activity among adults with arthritis

Community and Public Health

What Can You Do?

“Historically, the primary role of public health is to monitor, protect, and promote the public’s health. These functions complement the health care delivery system and community sectors. Complementing the public health sector are volunteer and non-profit organizations, long recognized as a source of social cohesion, a laboratory of innovation, and a continually adaptable means of responding to emerging ideas, needs, and communal opportunities. These community organizations have been in the forefront of developing and promoting physical activity recommendations and programs.”

Community and public health agencies are pivotal in reaching constituencies that may not be served traditionally or routinely by other sectors. In addition, they are key to promoting physical activity throughout towns, cities, and counties in ways that are safe and effective for, and inclusive of, persons with arthritis. This may include working across multiple sectors to launch evidence-based arthritis-appropriate physical activity interventions, forging community partnerships to expand physical activity opportunities, and managing up-to-date electronic databases and web-based listings of physical activity and arthritis-friendly resources in the community.

A few tips

Follow the recommended approaches for increasing physical activity provided in The Guide to Community Preventive Services, including informational approaches to change knowledge and awareness, behavioral and social approaches to teach behavior change skills and provide support, and environmental and policy approaches to change social networks, organizational norms and policies, and laws to support physical activity.

Promote the recommended interventions found in A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis, as well as the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Promote the recommended special considerations for people with chronic conditions, which state that “any activity is better than none (as) adults with chronic conditions obtain important health benefits from regular physical activity; when adults with chronic conditions do activity according to their abilities, physical activity is safe; and adults with chronic conditions should be under the care of healthcare providers (as) people with chronic conditions and symptoms should consult their healthcare providers about the types and amounts of activity appropriate for them.”

Work with aging services and senior centers to increase the functional ability of older adults. Recommendations based on “Aging, Disability, and Frailty: Implications for Universal Design” include:

  • Adequately wide doors of 32-36” width with thresholds ¼” or shorter,
  • Lever door handles,
  • Low level loop carpet or hard surface flooring (non slip, non glare),
  • Contrasting color values between floor and baseboard or furniture,
  • No steep entry,
  • Handrails on both sides of stairs, and
  • Adequate night lighting for safe walking.
What strategies will make the most difference?

Encourage and support senior centers and facilities that house older adults to enact policies that promote evidence-based disease management and health promotion activities.

Identify and partner with state health departments who receive CDC funding to operate state arthritis programs. These programs are charged with strengthening partnerships with other chronic disease programs, state Arthritis Foundation chapters/regions and other partners; improving their ability to monitor the burden of arthritis; coordinating state activities; increasing awareness that something can be done to address the burden and impact of arthritis; and promoting self-management education and physical activity.

Leverage other public health funding from foundations (e.g., the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), the Agency on Aging (AoA), and others.

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