Ed. Note: This is a cross post from the blog of fitness.gov. You can find the original post here.
Many people don’t really focus on inclusion, and how such a simple word can make all the difference in the lives of millions of Americans. As a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN), I believe that all people should have access to daily physical activity and be able to live a healthy lifestyle across their lifespan. As the District Director of Physical Education and Health Literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, I think about inclusion every day.
So what exactly is inclusion and why is it important? According to experts in the field of disability, the definition of inclusion is “to transform communities based on social justice principles in which all community members are presumed competent; are recruited and welcomed as valued members of their community; fully participate and learn with their peers; and experience reciprocal social relationships."
We know that lack of participation in physical activity is a serious public health concern for all Americans, but even more so for the approximately 56 million Americans with a disability who are at three times the risk of developing serious health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Regular physical activity can provide people with disabilities the strength and stamina required to participate in all aspects of life actively and successfully.
Nearly half of all adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity compared with one in four adults without disabilities. And typically, children and adolescents with a disability engage in very little school-based physical activity, and more sedentary recreational activity. Additionally, obesity rates for children with disabilities are 38% higher than for children without disabilities. These patterns of inactivity in childhood can also translate into unhealthy habits into adulthood.
While there will always be a need for specialized health promotion interventions targeting specific disability groups, there is a critical need to promote more inclusive programming to create a brighter future for all Americans.
Everyone has a role to play and we all can make a difference in the lives of others. The question I have for you is: When you think of inclusion, what does it mean to you? What role does it play in your life? What impact does it have in your community and in your organization, and how does it affect your world? Keep your answers to those questions in mind, and then take a moment to see what inclusion means to the amazing people in this video:
Now, with that video in mind, I want to challenge you to Commit to Inclusion!” Commit to Inclusionis a campaign that supports the implementation of the Guidelines for Disability Inclusion in Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Programs & Policies. These guidelines provide a blueprint for how to include people with disabilities in prevention and health promotion programs.
Commit to Inclusion consists of three simple steps:
- I commit to adopt the nine Guidelines for Disability Inclusion;
- I commit to use the Guidelines for Disability Inclusion and related resources in new or existing programs; and
- I commit to be an advocate for disability inclusion and display my commitment.
In conjunction with using and promoting the Guidelines for Disability Inclusion, Commit to Inclusion also supports the establishment of programming like PCFSN’s I Can Do It, You Can Do It! which facilitates access and opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to be healthy and active.
I am excited to share that Zumba® has made the commitment to inclusion by increasing the number of inclusive opportunities and inclusive trainings offered to the Zumba® community. I hope you will follow in Zumba’s footsteps by joining the Commit to Inclusion campaign, and agreeing to take those three simple steps. By doing so you are helping us create healthy, inclusive communities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Visit www.CommitToInclusion.org to get started, and be sure to share the campaign on social media. On Twitter, we ask that you tweet why inclusion matters to you and include the hashtag #INCLUSIONMEANS.
#INCLUSION MEANS providing a physical activity environment in which all students in the school setting can have equitable access to programs and facilities enabling them to be physically active with their peers before, during, and after school.