Arkansas Governors Council on Fitness  4815 West Markham Street, Little Rock, AR Ste 307 Slot 6  501-661-2580
 Coordinator Jennifer Reffner Jennifer.Reffner@arkansas.gov

About US

Mission: Purpose of Council
The mission of the Arkansas Governors Council on Fitness is to encourage the citizens of Arkansas to participate more actively in health and fitness activities that will help them live healthier, happier and more productive lives. The major focus of the Council is directed toward five populations: youth, adult, seniors, special populations, and business.

The following goals may be applied to any one or all populations:
* Develop, strengthen, and coordinate services and programs of fitness for the people of Arkansas.
* Work with local government and communities in developing fitness programs.
* Assist educational agencies and associations in developing quality school health and physical educational programs.
* Encourage employee fitness programs in public agencies and private companies.
* Encourage cooperative programs with medical, dental, and other professional societies to promote sound personal health and physical fitness.
* Enlist the support of citizens, civic groups, amateur and professional sports associations and voluntary organizations to promote and improve fitness.
* Sponsor fitness workshops, clinics, conferences, and other special emphasis activities.
* Collect and disseminate pertinent fitness information and initiate public service advertising programs.
* Recognize outstanding programs, developments, contributions, and achievements in fitness.

Objectives
* Recognizing outstanding programs, developments, and contributions and achievements in fitness.
* Assisting educational agencies and associations in developing quality school health and physical education programs.
* Joining with local government, communities, and professional societies to promote personal wellness.
* Collecting and disseminating pertinent wellness information and initiating public service programs.

History of the Arkansas Governor Council on Fitness

      Health Education in Arkansas appears to be gaining momentum and undergoing many changes in structure as well as execution. The Arkansas Governors Council on Fitness is no different. It began in 1992 essentially as a whisper regarding the benefits of physical activity. Today it has evolved into an effective voice heard throughout the state.

      Governor Bill Clinton organized the Arkansas Governors Council on Fitness and Sports in 1992. Its purpose was to educate Arkansans on the benefits of physical activity and address concerns about chronic diseases that can be a direct result of physical inactivity. This Council, however, did not receive any government funding to promote physical activity across the state. The Council was solely supported by the Chairman's personal account. During a meeting at Baptist Hospital of that year, an advisory council was formed. They began to slowly promote different programs for the state involving physical activity and sports.  In January 1997, the Preventive Health Block Grant awarded the Council funds to carry out the activities of the group. This meant approval of a temporary full-time position to conduct the Council's daily activities. In June of 1997, funds were awarded to make it a full-time position. The title of that position was Coordinator.

    The Coordinator's job is to aid in carrying out the goals and objectives of the Council. It was an entry-level Public Health Educator position placed under the supervision of the Health Education and Promotion Division of the Arkansas Department of Health. The job responsibilities include developing, organizing, conducting, and evaluating physical activity initiatives targeting adolescents and children, civic and community groups, worksites, nonprofit organizations, and special populations.

      The mission of the Arkansas Governor's Council on Fitness is to encourage health and wellness for all individuals in Arkansas by promoting healthy lifestyles through increased levels of physical activity. The Council works closely with local governments and communities in developing fitness programs and encourages employee fitness programs in public agencies and private companies. Also, it assists educational agencies in developing quality school health and physical education programs and recognizes outstanding programs, developments, contributions, and achievements in fitness.

      The Council changed its name to the Arkansas Governor's Council on Fitness in November of 1999. They wanted to get away from the association with sports and focus on fitness. The Council consists of members who are appointed by the Governor and one staff person, which is the Coordinator. The Preventive Block Grant funded the Coordinators salary and the monies used to carry out the Councils activities. This total sum was $35,000.00. The Preventive Block Grant funding ended in 2001. For the year 2001-2002, Governor Huckabee used his Emergency Fund to fund the Council. The total budget is $50,000.00. Also, the Coordinator position is under the supervision of the Lifestage Health Branch at the Division of Health, Arkansas Department of Health.

      The federal government has been learning more in the direction of fund matching in the last few years rather than giving money directly through organizations. In December of 1999, Baptist Health joined efforts with the Council to launch several new efforts in combating physical inactivity across the state. Until this time, most of the programs were isolated in Little Rock. The services and money committed by Baptist Health allowed the Council to have more of a statewide impact on physical inactivity. Baptist Health also assisted in launching a website, which is now www.agcof.com in January 2000. The Coordinator is in close contact with the supports of this website and is monitoring its progress.

     In June 2000, the first statewide Governor's Conference on Physical Activity was held in Little Rock. There were 200 participants registered to attend the conference. At the conference, the first Arkansas Fitness Report Card was released to educate Arkansans about health and fitness statistics for Arkansas compared to the rest of the nation. Due to the conference and the release of the Report Card, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected Arkansas to host an AIM 30 Physical Activity Training Institute. It was held in Little Rock on November 13-15, 2000. Ten states were represented with 55 participants.

     The Council is becoming stronger and is now focusing on changing and improving legislature. Being a state employee, the Coordinator is not allowed to lobby; or have an official opinion on such issues as listed above. The Coordinator can, however, educate and influence the decision-makers of the Council.  The main goal of the Council during legislative session is to support legislation and funding that supports physical activity in Arkansas. One example was promoting the Great Strides Act passed in May of 2001. The Great Strides Grant would allow small Arkansas communities the opportunity to apply for grants to build walking parks. Our smallest communities are the ones that are generally the unhealthiest. They have been targeted first. Numerous studies show that if you provide communities with these types of safe walking areas they will use them. The walking parks target all age groups and fitness levels. The cost of building a park ranges from $20,000 to $25,000. The Council recommends funding the Great Strides Grant to 10-20 parks per year.

To be the Coordinator to the Arkansas Governor's Council on Fitness, a person must have a bachelors degree in health education or a related area and be certified or eligible for certification as a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) or Certified Professional Health Educator (CPHE) by the Arkansas Board of Health Education as established by Act 1237 of 1997. The abilities, and skills this individual must possess include evaluating, planning, and analyzing physical activity programs. This person should have a degree, certification, or expertise related to physical education or physical activity.

The Council has many ongoing programs:

Great Arkansas Workout: The Great Arkansas Workout focuses on the importance of regular physical activity and healthy habits in children. This nationwide event was originally instituted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990's for the President's Council on Fitness and Sports.
Media personalities and other celebrities like the Arkansas Twisters mascots will join 760 fourth graders from 28 schools across Arkansas. Some of the states top instructors will lead the children through exercise stations that include such diverse activities as boxing, yoga, football, aerobics, and running. This year the event will be expanded to include a health fair for the students. Students will be able to pick up health information and learn about health habits from vendors and organizations from across Arkansas.

Governor's Leadership in Fitness Awards: The Governor's Leadership in Fitness Awards recognizes individuals and companies whose efforts have positively affected the health and fitness of Arkansans. The Governor presents outstanding leadership awards to winners in nine different categories: Individual Leadership, School District of the Year, Physical Educator of the Year, Health and Fitness Club, Senior Leadership, Legislative Leadership, Government Agency, Corporate Leadership, and Media Leadership.

Grant Initiative: The Arkansas Governor's Council on Fitness and the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services partnered with the Department of Education Office of Coordinated School Health to Improve student's physical activity levels in Arkansas schools. The initiative, Governor's Council on Fitness: Physical Activity Equipment Grant; consisted of grants to public and or private physical education programs. Ten (10) grants (up to $1,000 each) were awarded to ten schools in the ten schools districts participating in the Coordinated School Health Pilot. The goal of the Governor's Council on Fitness grants was to encourage schools in Arkansas, identified as implementing Coordinated School Health for 2006-2007, to improve the physical activity patterns of their students.

Walk the Block: Walk the Block promotes the Road Runners Club of America; National Run @ Work Day;. The purpose of this day is to encourage Arkansans to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. This event provides a fun atmosphere to distribute downtown walking and running course maps of 1, 2, 3, 4 miles and a limited amount of pedometers. Vendors are on hand at the event to share health and fitness tips, training, food, and conduct health screenings. WALK THE BLOCK; is free and open to the public.