Raising an Active and Healthy Generation

A Comprehensive Public Health Initiative

Russell R. Pate; Marsha Dowda


Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2019;47(1):3-14. 

In This Article

A Vision

In this article, we have presented a comprehensive public health initiative aimed at increasing the PA level of children and youth in the United States. We have summarized the scientific evidence and public health experience for a diverse set of strategies that we believe should be included in a comprehensive initiative. Furthermore, we have called for application of state-of-the-art public health methods in planning and undertaking this effort. The goal is to actualize a vision. It is a vision in which American children live in a society that sees PA as a critical factor in the health, education, and development of its young people. In such a nation, most children and youth would be highly physically active at every stage of their development as a result of planned actions that sanction and promote PA in all the key settings. Toddlers would be encouraged to explore their environment by moving throughout the day, and their activity would not be restricted unnecessarily. Preschoolers would meet their developmental milestones and prepare for kindergarten in settings that provide and promote PA as an essential strategy for both learning and health. Schools at all levels would normalize PA. Classrooms would be open, movement would be encouraged, and sedentary behavior would be discouraged. Physical education classes would see most students moving most of the time while they are exposed to and receive instruction in a wide range of activities. Outside the classroom, students would be given opportunities for activity before school starts in the morning, during regular breaks in the school day, and in a wide array of afterschool programs. When at home, children and youth would spend time outside every day, accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult as needed to ensure their safety. Summer breaks from school would see most youth consistently spending time in settings and programs that involve high levels of PA. Community agencies as well as nongovernment and faith-based organizations would offer youth sports and other PA programs that meet the needs and interests of all children, regardless of their families' resources. And finally, communities would be designed to support PA — by active transport to school and other destinations; by recreation in parks, centers, and green spaces that are well maintained and accessible to all youth; and by delivery of community-wide campaigns and events that encourage a physically active lifestyle. Can this vision be realized? We absolutely believe that it can and will become reality. It will happen because our society's fitness, health, and quality of life depend on it.