New Program Strives to Actively Move Indianapolis to Better Health, Fitness

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American College of Sports Medicine creates AFI Technical Assistance Program

To help communities improve the health of their residents, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) today introduced the American Fitness Index (AFI) Technical Assistance Program. With support from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, the AFI Technical Assistance Program will be piloted in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis will be the convening partner in the Indianapolis effort.

The new program builds upon the annual ACSM American Fitness Index™ data report, which provides a health status snapshot of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The Indianapolis metro area has consistently scored poorly in the AFI data report, ranking 45th with a score of 34.4 (out of 100 possible points) in the 2011 edition. The metro area ranked 44th with a score of 35.9 in 2010.

Contributing to Indianapolis’ low score is a high percentage of smokers and an above-average population with chronic health problems such as obesity, asthma and coronary heart disease. As a community, the metro area’s investment in park-related expenditures and facilities is on the low end. Additionally, less than two percent of residents bike, walk or use public transportation to get to their jobs.

“The consistently low score in the AFI data report indicates there are significant areas in which Indianapolis can improve the health of residents and potentially expand local assets to better support active, healthy lifestyles,” said Walter Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, chair of the AFI Advisory Board.

Thompson continued, “The AFI Technical Assistance Program will identify actionable areas with the best evidence for improving health and fitness at the community level and aims to make a community-wide impact quickly.” The program will balance helping underserved populations with doing the most good for the most residents. As an example, Dr. Thompson noted the significance of prohibitive smoking policies that can make an immediate impact.

The program begins with a series of interviews with community advocates and experts – identified by the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and the Alliance for Health Promotion – with keen insight into the health and fitness of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. The Bowen Research Center, the Research Division of the Indiana University School of Medicine, will conduct the interviews to get feedback on Indianapolis’ unique strengths, assets and areas of needed improvement related to healthy living and physical activity.

Following the interview phase, ACSM will facilitate a planning session with a community team to address the key issues and create a strategic plan. A period of public comment will follow, allowing the community to weigh in on the plan. The community team will be responsible for implementing and tracking successes back to ACSM. ACSM experts will participate in the implementation phase and will share lessons learned and best practice solutions through the AFI program.

The health of Indianapolis is so critical that the Y recently announced one of its long-range vision goals is to help make Indianapolis one of the “top 10 healthiest communities” in the country by 2025.

“This study and planning process is our big break in making Indianapolis one of the top 10 healthiest cities in the country,” said Eric Ellsworth, President/CEO, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. “We are thrilled to take on the challenge and the implementation of the plan. No longer will we wallow in the bottom of the health index!”

In addition to Indianapolis, the pilot program will be conducted with community leaders in Oklahoma City in 2011. The goal is to add four additional cities in 2012 and 2013 respectively, bringing the total to ten cities that will receive tailored technical assistance.

“It was an important initial step to measure the health of America’s cities,” said Robert W. Hillman, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana. “We’ve done that, and we know Indianapolis and other cities have a lot of work to do. But in this next critical phase, we are hopeful of finding solutions that will improve the health of all who live, work and play in Indianapolis.”

For more information about the ACSM American Fitness Index and annual data report, visit

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis serves more than 188,000 people in diverse communities throughout greater Indianapolis. The Y brings together young, old, men and women, people of all faiths, backgrounds and incomes. Last year, the Y provided nearly $6 million in scholarships, subsidies and underwritten programs and community services in low-income neighborhoods. Through 15 branches and in collaboration with more than 200 churches, schools and other community groups and organizations, the Y is also able to extend its program opportunities throughout Central Indiana and into the heart of urban neighborhoods. For more information about YMCA programs and services visit

Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, promotes Anthem’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long-term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and its parent foundation provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges. ®ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


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