by Claire Miller
The city of Atlanta is the 21st healthiest metropolitan area in the United States, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2012 American Fitness Index (AFI).
Minneapolis-St. Paul placed No.1 on the index for the second consecutive year, with its low rate of diabetes, above-average quantity of recreational amenities and strong numbers of pedestrian, bike and transit commuters all contributing to its ranking.
Walt Thompson, Regents’ Professor of kinesiology and health in Georgia State University’s College of Education and chair of the AFI Advisory Board, said the annual index incorporates numerous health factors into a city’s ranking, including preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease, health care access and community resources and policies that support physical activity.
“We look at two different sets of indicators – personal health indicators, like health behaviors and chronic health problems, and community and environmental indicators, which really look at things like access to primary health care, recreation facilities and how much we spend on parks,” said Thompson, whose research interests include wellness coaching as a primary mechanism for behavior change and the integration of sport and physical activity for people with disabilities.
In Atlanta’s case, the city has lower rates of angina or coronary heart disease than the national goal, a lower death rate for diabetes and more recreation centers per capita than the national average.
However, there are some areas the city could improve upon, from lowering its rates of obesity and asthma to increasing its total acres of parkland and the number of farmers markets.
“The mayor of Atlanta is doing a good job with reopening several recreation centers, but there are still some things that we need to do,” Thompson said. “In Atlanta, 29 percent of us are considered obese. That’s one out of three people. It’s the same old story – we need to eat better and exercise more.”
To lay the groundwork for improving Atlanta’s collective health, city officials, educators and other professionals can download the AFI Community Action Guide, which serves as a “how-to book on how cities can make changes,” Thompson said.
For more information about the index, contact Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the full 2012 index, click here.
About the ACSM American Fitness Index Program and Report
To assist with measurement and to provide a baseline measure of health and fitness status, ACSM worked with the Indiana University School of Family Medicine and a panel of 26 health and physical activity experts on the methodology of the AFI data report. Researchers analyzed the data gleaned from U.S. Census data, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), The Trust for the Public Land City Park Facts and other existing research data in order to give a scientific, accurate snapshot of the health and fitness status at a metropolitan level.
The data examined fall into two categories: 1) personal health indicators and 2) community and environmental indicators. Visit the online newsroom at www.AmericanFitnessIndex.org for a complete list of the data components.