ally and devoting 10 percent of its land mass to open space. Designating land as open space guarantees that it will not be developed, thus providing places for children and youth to play.

The Role of Local Government

Drummond asserted that “local government really matters. We are the ones who have to implement.” The challenge is to adhere to the basics because “in government, we have a tendency to overcomplicate things.” Finding ways to keep children active is challenging, especially in a crowded school day. The best solution for a community will depend on its specific needs and pressures.

According to a study conducted for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, only one local jurisdiction provides the recommended 45 minutes per day of activity for elementary school–aged children. Drummond urged less testing and more appropriate ways of educating children to ensure balance in their lives. Parental involvement and personal responsibility are also important, and policy makers must be willing to spend money on initiatives to increase children’s physical activity.

“We need to get in the vocabulary of kids that it is good to be healthy, because at one point in time, they are going to be voters.”

—Dan Drummond

Drummond identified three areas in which local governments can play a role: infrastructure, programs, and opportunities for citizen involvement. Fairfax City invests in open space, parks, and recreation facilities; supports public–private partnerships to offer youth sports; and organizes after-school “functional fitness for kids” and other programs for children of all ages throughout the year. Trails Day, Bike-to-Work Day, the National Parks and Recreation Association’s Step Up to Health Day, and a task force for families are among the initiatives undertaken to engage the public in increasing their physical activity.

The Importance of Starting Young

Policy makers often support anti-obesity measures based on their own or their family’s experiences, and Drummond acknowledged that personal experience was one motivator for his strong support of recreational opportunities for youth. According to Drummond, teaching children about healthy lifestyles is as important as teaching them to read, write, and do math in preparing them for life.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement