In this issue are the anticipated guidelines for children's fitness1 that demonstrate our commitment to the physical health and well-being of children, both those with disabling conditions and those who are developing typically. Ganley and her colleagues on the task force that generated this document are to be commended for the high quality of their work and for their strong stance that calls us to action. In my last editorial, I pointed to the progress we are making in several areas of practice, but most specifically we can now see the evidence of our Section's commitment to our roles in the arena of health promotion and prevention of obesity and other conditions that are a clear result of physical inactivity. Getting children to engage in more physical activity is a national priority.
We have heard repeatedly from our professional organization that physical therapists are ideally suited to be the practitioners of choice in the area of health promotion because of the importance of exercise and physical activity to health. Yet, the message in the report from our colleagues on the task force to develop the fitness guidelines is one that is quite alarming and clearly questions our professional fitness for this role.
We appear to be ill-equipped to assume the role that begs our involvement because of apparent gaps in our education in the areas of exercise physiology. It seems hard to believe that physical therapists could graduate from their doctoral-level educational programs without ever having had formal coursework in exercise physiology. But my own personal experience would affirm the task force's findings on the current status of curricula preparing physical therapists.
We know how difficult it is to effect curricular change; indeed, we recently received the report on pediatric content in our educational programs from Schreiber et al2 and learned how slow curricular change can be. Yet, the opportunities we have to make a clear difference in our nation's health are too compelling to ignore. Not only should we work as advocates for children's health and fitness, but we also need to advocate within the profession to make content in exercise physiology a required component of all physical therapist curricula. We also need to lobby our professional organization to provide opportunities to acquire the appropriate knowledge through continuing education programs. The secondary consequences of inactivity in this effort are too serious to ignore. We need to get ourselves professionally fit for the challenge ahead and we will then be able to become the practitioners we envision ourselves.
Ann F. Van Sant, PT, PhD, FAPTA
1. Ganley KJ, Paterno MV, Miles C, et al. Health-related fitness in children and adolescents. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2011;23:208–220.
2. Schreiber J, Goodgold S, Moerchen VA, et al. A description of professional pediatric physical therapy education. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2011;23:201–204.