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Physical activity policy is defined as legislative action, organized guidance, or rule that may affect the physical activity environment or behavior at a population level (Schmid et al 2006). These policies can be in the form of formal written codes, written standards that guide choices, or common practices. Relevant policies may be enacted at the local, state, or federal level.
The built environment supports all major physical activity policy domains (e.g. school, worksite, parks) in addition to transportation and land use. While built environment (including land use and transportation) approaches are recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force to increase physical activity, gaps remain in the identification of model policies and implementation of policy processes.
Implementation science seeks to identify systematic and adaptable strategies to improve the adoption of evidence-based programs, practices, and policies into delivery settings. It has focused mostly on health care, but public health is increasingly encouraged to adopt this approach. Physical activity policy implementation research in the built environment presents challenges, because public health does not control policy levers such as land use planning or transportation. Yet public health officials can successfully engage in cross-sector policy processes.
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