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Activating Families for Physical Activity: A Look at Activate! and its Corporate Applications

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

At a Glance: Activate! was invited to present at a lunch and learn function at a Fortune 500 health insurance company  as part of the organization’s community health program that seeks to improve healthy lifestyles in communities by using both CDC data on population health and tracking key social determinants of health.

Public Health Challenge: West Virginia’s (WV) current obesity rate for 10-17 years old is 20.3% with adults ranking number one at 38.1% along with number one for diabetes (15.2%) and hypertension (43.5%). Furthermore, WV ranks 8th in adult physical inactivity.1 Studies show it is important to provide young people opportunities and encouragement to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety. Multiple studies have confirmed that physical activity is associated with health benefits and has an impact on concentration and attention leading to improved academic performance. 2,3 Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.  Interventions to promote physical activity in children should be informed by knowledge of the factors that influence physical activity behavior during critical developmental transitions.  Factors found to be important in the transition from childhood to adolescence include: parent encouragement of physical activity, parental support for physical activity, child sports participation, parent’s report of the child’s physical activity level, the child’s time spent outdoors, social spaces for physical activity in the community, and the number of physical activity facilities that are proximal to the child’s home.4

Approach: Activate! incorporated school and family based physical activity interventions for West Virginia 5th grade students and their families to increase physical activity. Activate! reached 1,227 West Virginia students, parents, and school personnel participants.  The Aims of Activate were to:  1) Define and document current school physical education and recess practices among elementary schools in WV and compare student health and academic outcomes based on school practices. 2) Test effectiveness of school and family-based physical activity interventions in terms of improved child physical activity, health, and academic outcomes.  3) Translate research results into environmental and policy recommendations at the local, regional, and state levels to increase student access to effective physical activity and education.  Activate! developed a Research to Policy Council comprised of experts in physical education and physical activity to guide the study through the development and implementation of a transitional product plan at local, regional, state, and federal levels.  Activate! also collaborated with the WV Prevention Research Center’s Community Partnership Board.  Through this partnership, Activate! was invited to present at a corporate healthy lifestyles Lunch & Learn WebEx in February 2019.

Results: The presentation provided an overview of the project, an interactive Brain Break, and details of the Family Intervention, including Monthly Lessons and Themes, Action Plans, Family Fun Nights, Fitbit Feedback & Family Involvement, and Social Media.  Resources shared from Activate! included Research Briefs, Success Stories, and a List of Physical Activities to be used in classrooms or at homes and the Family Action Plan.  Fifty-seven people participated in the Lunch and Learn and were eligible to earn workplace health incentives.  Polling questions gathered participant feedback on their knowledge about physical activity recommendations and other perceptions on how much physical activity a child needs every day. As reflected in the pie chart, a little over 42% of participants answered correctly with 1 hour. Well-being Lunch and Learn discussions encompassed translating the Activate! program for families to expand impact and roles insurance companies could have connecting school and home settings to increase physical activity.  Participants commented that they loved the Activate! Action Plan and considered it as a great starting point for family physical activity and would like to have Activate! themes and challenges incorporated into their company’s monthly health information.

“I found your study VERY personally interesting and encouraging that there are programs out there to help our children as well as parents and teachers.” – Webinar Participant

"Thank you for the great presentation today. …I thought we had some great comments in the chat. I loved the interaction you and the team created." –Webinar Participant


What’s Next:  Activate! next steps include continuing to work on data analysis to translate physical activity findings and disseminate the information supporting local, state, and national initiatives. The project would also be willing to adapt their program for corporate entities, including workplace wellness initiatives or community health outreach programs.

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Activate! is the applied research project for the West Virginia Prevention Research Center at the WVU School of Public Health and is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement number 1-U48-DP-005004. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


1) Segal L., Rayburn, J. & Martin, A. (2016). The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America 2016. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

2) Basch, C. Healthier children are better learners: A missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. 2010. [October 11, 2011]. http://www​.equitycampaign​.org/i/a/document​/12557_EquityMattersVol6_Web03082010​.pdf.

3) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The association between school based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.

4) Pate, R. R., Dowda, M., Dishman, R. K., Colabianchi, N., Saunders, R. P., & McIver, K. L. (2019). Change in Children's Physical Activity: Predictors in the Transition from Elementary to Middle School. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Micah Gregory