Global insights for "improving the grade" - Panel Roundup

American researcher, Dr. Robert Malina, chaired a panel discussion with five international experts who helped coordinate their respective report cards in Columbia, Scotland, Kenya, the United States and Australia.

Dr. Malina posed questions to the panel before the audience was invited to get involved. Here we offer a brief roundup of this Q & A.

What purpose do these report card serve? When asked how the report cards will be used now that they’ve been released, responses varied slightly by country, though the panel agreed that these report cards will act as an impactful awareness tools and, in the matrix, will serve as a baseline for future progress tracking. There was also some acknowledgement that a healthy sense of competition may be used to encourage policy makers to look at what’s happening in other countries as a model for raising the bar in their own.

In countries that scored well on Built Community, the global matrix serves as a reminder that infrastructure alone is not the key to encouraging activity in children while Kenya’s Dr. Vincent Onywera noted that the trick to making the most of the combined global matrix is to find what is working elsewhere and then to repackage it for implementation without interfering with those areas that are already working well in each individual country.

How to break the Sedentary Cycle?

The concept of “snacking” on physical activity was an idea presented by Australia’s Dr. Grant Tomkinson. This concept considers small bits of physical activity interspersed throughout the day to make activity more of a lifestyle practice than a “to do” obligation. 

Scotland’s Dr. John Reilly noted the need to ensure messaging is clear, for example it is important when discussing reductions in screen time to acknowledge this is aimed at recreational screen time and not an attempt to thwart reading or technological education. 

While on the topic of education, Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, from the U.S. suggested that including physical literacy into standardized testing might encourage schools to value physical education when dealing with conflicting priorities and limited classroom time, or, alternatively the need to get the message out that physical activity tends to improve test scores.

How can we make guidelines more flexible?

Dr. Silvia Gonzalez of Columbia posed that, along with positive vocabulary changes to make activity seem less like a requirement and more a part of life, it would be valuable to flesh out the “How Much” or How Often” often found in guidelines with some examples of “How To” get those needed minutes of physical activity every day. 

How transferable are the observations in the various report cards?

The panel thought that there was much to learn and share in both context and in practice within the findings of each report card though interpretation will be needed to bring ideas to new audiences. In general the chance to see what is working and not working in various countries offers the opportunity to learn from, and educate cross-countries sharing best practices and also lessons-learned that can be equally valuable.