ACSM President’s Vision for the Coming Year — A Focus on Sports and Physical Activity for Women and Girls

By Elizabeth Joy, MD, MPH, FACSM 

A major strength of the American College of Sports Medicine is its multidisciplinary membership. It’s a place where clinicians, scientists and educators come together with a goal of promoting safe, enjoyable, health-promoting physical activity and sport for all people. A focus on women and girls will leverage ACSM’s special strengths and leadership in clinical medicine, research, education and advocacy. 

Drawing upon our membership strengths in clinical medicine and, in close partnership with Exercise Is Medicine® and the National Physical Activity Plan, we will continue to pursue the goal of universal integration of a physical activity vital sign (PAVS) in electronic health records for both adults and children/adolescents. In addition, we will develop and submit for consideration a HEDIS (Healthcare Effectiveness Data Information Set) clinical quality measure for physical activity assessment and promotion for adults. HEDIS measures reside in the National Committee on Quality Assurance and are used by more than 90 percent of health plans to measure performance on multiple dimensions of health care delivery. This is a key strategy to achieve changes in policy and reimbursement for the clinical resources necessary to support physical activity promotion in health care settings – in hopes of improving upon current assessment rates which, according to the Healthy People 2020 report, hover around 8 percent of all child and adult outpatient medical visits. Worth noting, there is a significant cost associated with the development and submission of HEDIS measures – ACSM will seek strategic partnerships to help achieve this objective. 

An additional area of focus this year will be to address physical activity assessment and promotion during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Joining the ACSM Board of Trustees is Michelle Mottola, Ph.D., FACSM. Michelle is one of the world’s foremost researchers in the area of exercise during pregnancy. We will work closely with her and others to promote regular assessment and physical activity during pregnancy – the goal being to improve the health and outcomes for moms and babies. 

Moving on to research, we will work closely with ACSM’s Office of Evidence Based Practice, as well as key ACSM interest groups, to identify gaps in the research available from translational, clinical and implementation sciences on critical issues in sport and physical activity for women and girls. The information from this gap analysis will guide the development of ACSM research RFPs, in addition to ACSM publications aimed at summarizing existing evidence and prioritizing areas in need of future investigation. 

A similar gap analysis will concentrate on ACSM educational initiatives, ensuring that our educational content includes essential differences between genders, i.e., injury risks and prevention strategies, metabolic consequences of exercise and physical activity promotion strategies. This work will examine ACSM courses such as the ACSM Team Physician Course, EIM Certification Course for health & fitness professionals, the ACSM Team Physician Consensus Conference and others. Results of this gap analysis will inform changes to curricula to ensure that we are addressing the unique needs of women and girls in sport and physical activity participation. 

Finally, ACSM will leverage its substantial influence nationally and internationally to advance issues supporting sport and physical activity participation for women and girls. We already have strong relationships with organizations that are focused on women and girls, including WomenSport International, Women’s Sports Foundation and the Female Athlete Triad Coalition. Other organizations, including Project Play, Let’s Move, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to name only a few, will be key partners. We will also engage other partners to advance an agenda focused on sports and physical activity participation for women and girls. 

ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. We have a tremendous opportunity to focus our considerable resources to vigorously and effectively promote sports and physical activity for women and girls. These segments of our population are at particular risk of inactivity and inactivity-related illness and injury. An ACSM Presidential Task Force will take the lead in prioritizing the aforementioned activities; however, I encourage each and every ACSM member to consider how we can individually and collectively impact physical activity for women and girls in our homes, schools, communities, the nation and other countries across the globe. 

I look forward to sharing the results of our collective efforts, and defining a sustaining legacy at ACSM.

Viewpoints presented on the SMB blog reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM. 

ACSM President Elizabeth (Liz) Joy, MD, MPH, FACSM, is the medical director of community health and clinical nutrition at Intermountain Healthcare. She also is adjunct professor of family & preventive medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Joy was installed as president at the ACSM Annual Meeting in Boston earlier this month.

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