CALL FOR ABSTRACTS — APHA's 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo

Physical Activity

Meeting theme: "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness"

Submission Deadline: Sunday, March 21, 2021

The American Public Health Association (APHA) Physical Activity Section is comprised of over 640 physical activity practitioners, researchers, advocates, partners, and students committed to advocating for the importance of physical activity in public health and public policy. Our section began as a Special Interest Group (SPIG) in 2009 and was formally recognized as a full Member Section in 2012. A strong, engaged, and growing leadership team, including 12 distinct committees, guides the development and operation of the Section as a service to all section and APHA members. In 2017, the Physical Activity Section was recognized as a National Public Health Week All-Star and received the Outstanding Collaborator Award. We look forward to continuing to build a movement around physical activity with your help in 2021.

We welcome submissions related to all areas of physical activity and public health. Abstracts reporting impact and outcome evaluation results of community-based physical activity interventions for vulnerable populations and/or highlight the theme of the 2021 meeting "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Strengthening Social Connectedness” will be given priority.

Other topics of particular interest for 2021 are as follows:

  • Built Environment and Active Transportation to Enhance Physical Activity
    Recommended levels of physical activity can be achieved by including activities such as walking or cycling as part of everyday life. This can be encouraged with a supportive built environment. Even though individual and social factors affect physical activity, research has shown that a well-designed environment matter. Submissions may address strategies to address active transportation, facilitators, and real or perceived barriers, advances in interdisciplinary collaborations, integrated uses of health, and transportation data as well as evaluation of built environment interventions.
  • COVID-19 and Physical Activity
    Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) impacts all aspects of health and well-being. Submissions in the COVID-19 category may be studies on the impact of COVID-19 and outcomes such as physical activity or sedentary behavior. If your study falls into one of the other listed topics, but also has a COVID-19 focus, you may submit under whichever topic you prefer.
  • Dissemination & Implementation
    Dissemination and implementation is often referred to as the push and the pull of evidence-based interventions. Often, physical activity research focuses on the creation of new interventions; however, it is important to better comprehend how interventions are being pushed out to people, and how the intervention is being used within a specific setting. Submissions should be specific to the dissemination or implementation of an evidence-based intervention.
  • Physical Activity Among Children
    Childhood and adolescence are critical periods for development. Additionally, learning healthy habits during childhood can track into adulthood. Regular physical activity can improve children's cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, cognition, and mental health. Current evidence shows risk factors for chronic diseases are increasingly appearing in children and adolescents; however, active children have a better chance of a healthy adulthood. Submissions should be specific to physical activity, or inactivity, in children and adolescents.
  • Physical Activity Among the College Student Population
    The college student population faces several major life-course transitions which may influence their health behaviors and outcomes. Specifically, students may face new challenges and changes that compete with their time and energy. Emerging adulthood is often marked by substantial weight gain and decreased exercise, making physical activity programs a priority. In addition, college students are often an optimal population to reach, given their convenient location. Given that behaviors established during these years can persist throughout adulthood, increasing physical activity among this population is critical.
  • Physical Activity Epidemiology
    Physical activity epidemiology deals with the frequency and patterns of physical activity in the population and the relationship between physical activity and health and disease. Submissions should provide information on physical activity epidemiological studies that deliver research evidence that is necessary to assess the importance of physical activity to health.
  • Physical Activity Research Methods
    Research methods in the field of physical activity allow public health professionals and health-care personal to solidify their understanding of movement-based research. Submissions on advances in science and methodology in physical activity research will be given priority. In addition, also submissions on innovative designs to meet the real-world demands will be considered (e.g., SMART designs, just-in-time adaptive interventions, ecological momentary assessment, wearable technologies).
  • Physical Activity and Disability
    Increasing physical activity among people with disabilities is beneficial to treat myriad disabilities, as well as decrease the risk of chronic disease secondary to disabilities. It is imperative to involve people with disabilities in the research on physical activity. Submissions should be either specific to physical activity studies on people with disabilities or include people with disabilities in larger physical activity programs and interventions.
  • Physical Activity and Environment (organized jointly with the Environment section)
    Physical activity is usually done in parks, trails, fitness centers, schools, and pedestrian sidewalks, as these environments are intentionally designed to foster physical activity. In recent years, scientific interest has increased notably in measuring how different environments may affect physical activity behavior. Intervening on the environment is one way to promote physical activity and improve health, but evidence on intervention effectiveness is mixed. Submissions should provide examples from government agencies, community organizations, and public-private partnerships working to increase the effectiveness of physical activity interventions and share lessons learned for more broad application.
  • Physical Activity and Mental Health
    Mental health, which includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being, is a critical public health issue. Physical activity can improve mental health among both children and adults. For example, the psychological and physical benefits of physical activity may help in coping with stress, anxiety, and depression. Public health efforts and interventions aim to increase regular physical activity among clinical and non-clinical populations. Submissions should report the impact of physical activity programs or research that aim to improve mental health outcomes.
  • Physical Activity throughout the Lifespan
    Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological aging process, regular activity can counteract some of the adverse physiological, psychological, and cognitive consequences of aging. Submissions should provide information on how age and physical inactivity are risk factors for a long list of adverse chronic conditions, whereas increasing physical activity from mid-life to old age results in reduced rates of chronic disease and premature death.
  • Polices to Increase Physical Activity in the Population
    Policies can affect physical activity in many ways. They can improve access to opportunities for physical activity—for example, by changing the way communities are designed and increasing bike lanes or parks. Submissions may address advocacy, financing, implementation, and evaluation of physical activity related policies. In addition, abstracts evaluating the impact of workplace, school, childcare, and healthcare policies that facilitate increases in physical activity are encouraged. Finally, submissions on policy approaches that address health disparities in physical activity, innovative collaborations and funding models to advance physical activity policy efforts are welcome.
  • Rural Physical Activity
    Roughly, 15% of the US population lives in rural areas; however, physical activity rates are roughly half of what is attained in urban/suburban areas. Further, chronic disease has increased in the rural populous. Therefore, the research community needs to determine what works (and what does not work) to increase physical activity in rural populations. Submissions should be specific to physical activity in rural populations (quantitative or qualitative), and “rural” should be defined in the abstract submission (e.g., RUCA, RUCC).
Abstract Format

Abstracts should be no more than 350 words.

Please include the following elements in each abstract:

  • Type of presentation preferred (oral, poster, or no preference)
  • Three (3) measurable objectives
  • For consideration of the Student Presentation Awards, please indicate if the first author is a student (see eligibility below)
  • Structure of the abstract (both quantitative and qualitative research): Introduction and objectives, methods, results, conclusions

The recommendation what information to include in each of the sections of your abstract are as follows:

Quantitative research

Introduction and Objective: The abstract should begin with a sentence or two explaining the clinical (or other) importance of the study question. This section should also state the precise objective or study question addressed in the project (eg, “To determine whether…”). If more than one objective is addressed, the main objective should be indicated, and only key secondary objectives stated. If an a priori hypothesis was tested, it should be stated.

Methods: Describe the basic design of the study. State the years of the study and the duration of follow-up. Describe the study setting to assist readers to determine the applicability of the report to other circumstances, for example, general community, a primary care or referral center, private or institutional practice, or ambulatory or hospitalized care. The numbers of participants and how they were selected should be provided (inclusion/exclusion criteria). In intervention studies, the number of participants withdrawn because of adverse effects should be given. For selection procedures, these terms should be used, if appropriate: random sample (where random refers to a formal, randomized selection in which all eligible individuals have a fixed and usually equal chance of selection); population-based sample; referred sample; consecutive sample; volunteer sample; convenience sample. The essential features of any interventions should be described. Indicate the primary study outcome measurement(s) as planned before data collection began. Present most relevant statistical methods applied.

Results: The main outcomes of the study should be reported and quantified, including baseline characteristics and final included/analyzed sample. Include absolute numbers and measures of absolute risks (such as increase/decrease or absolute differences between groups), along with confidence intervals (for example, 95%) and P values. Approaches such as number needed to treat to achieve a unit of benefit may be included when appropriate. Measures of relative risk also may be reported (eg, relative risk, hazard ratios) and should include confidence intervals. Studies of screening and diagnostic tests should report sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratios. All randomized controlled trials should include the results of intention-to-treat analysis, and all surveys should include response rates.

Conclusions: Provide only conclusions of the study directly supported by the results, along with implications for public health, clinical practice or policy makers avoiding speculation and over-generalization. Indicate whether additional study is required before the information should be used in usual clinical settings. Give equal emphasis to positive and negative findings of equal scientific merit.

Qualitative research

Introduction and Objective: The abstract should begin with a sentence or two explaining the clinical (or other) importance of the study question. This section should also state the precise objective or study question addressed in the project (e.g., “To determine whether…”). If more than one objective is addressed, the main objective should be indicated and only key secondary objectives stated. If an a priori hypothesis was tested, it should be stated.

Methods: Describe the type of qualitative approach (e.g., ethnography, phenomenology) and a clear explanation of data collection to include participant selection, method of collection, type of data, and any relationship between the researcher and participants. This section should also include the data analysis process with clear definitions of concepts, categories, and themes. Lastly, include any strategies to enhance the quality of data analysis (e.g., triangulation, respondent validation) and any strategies to enhance validity (e.g., team analysis, peer review panels).

Findings: Provide an overview of important findings with special attention to the interpretation of findings (e.g., linking to theory). Was there any influence of the researcher on data collected or its analysis (e.g., how do the findings add to prior knowledge, did prior knowledge influence data analysis)?

Conclusions: Provide only conclusions of the study directly supported by the results, along with implications for public health, clinical practice or policy makers. What is the significance of the study findings? How do the findings build on or add to what is known? What message(s) should the audience take away from the findings?

IMPORTANT: Abstract submissions can NOT contain mention of commercial entities or authors/faculty for purposes of a masked review.

Submission and Review: 

All abstracts must be submitted electronically using the APHA Meeting website by the date published on the APHA website for the Physical Activity Section. Late, faxed, and email submissions cannot be accepted. APHA will send email notices of acceptance to abstract authors in early June 2021. All abstracts are subject to masked peer review by at least three reviewers. Please remove any references to a specific institution in the body of the abstract to permit masked review and ensure fairness. By submitting an abstract proposal, the author(s) agree that, if accepted, the paper will be presented as scheduled. 

**Please note: per APHA policy, if unable to present, presenters must withdraw submissions by August 13, 2021, in order to avoid a three year probationary period.**


APHA Physical Activity Section 2021 Awards

  1. APHA Physical Activity Section 2021 Student Presentation Awards

Awards will be given for the most outstanding student oral and poster presentation submitted to the Physical Activity Section and related to at least one of the Physical Activity Section topics of interest (please see above) in the 2021 Call for Abstracts.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Student member (undergraduate, masters, doctoral) of the APHA Physical Activity Section at the time of presentation.
  • Student should be the first author on the abstract.
  • Abstract should be based on independent research of the student.

All student abstract submissions will be considered for these awards. No separate submission is necessary, but please indicate if the first author is a student (under Abstract Format).

  1. Physical Activity Section 2021 Steven P. Hooker Research Award

An award will be given for the most outstanding research abstract submitted to the Physical Activity Section and is related to at least one of the Physical Activity Section topics of interest (please see above) in the Call for Abstracts. 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Member (Regular, Early Career Professional, Retired, Special Health Worker) of the APHA Physical Activity Section
  • Candidate should be the first author on the abstract.
  1. Evaluation and selection of award winners

The awards committee will select nominees for each award. A panel made up of the Physical Activity Section Leadership Team will attend the nominated oral and poster sessions to judge the presentations. All submissions to the Physical Activity Section will be considered and will be based upon both abstract scores and the above noted judging criteria. The presentations will be rated on a set of criteria including: presentation style, content, quality of contribution to the literature/impact, quality of data and methodology.

The award winners will be announced at the Physical Activity Section social event at the 2021 Annual Meeting and online at the end of the conference.

Continuing Education Credit

APHA values the ability to provide continuing education credit to physicians, nurses, health educators, veterinarians, and those certified in public health at its annual meeting. Please complete all required information when submitting an abstract so members can claim credit for attending your session. These credits are necessary for members to keep their licenses and credentials.

For a session to be eligible for Continuing Education Credit, each presenter must provide:

  • An abstract free of trade and/or commercial product names
  • At least one MEASURABLE outcomes (DO NOT USE “To understand” or “To learn” as objectives, they are not measureable). Examples of Acceptable Measurable Action Words:  Explain, Demonstrate, Analyze, Formulate, Discuss, Compare, Differentiate, Describe, Name, Assess, Evaluate, Identify, Design, Define or List.
  • A signed Conflict of Interest (Disclosure) form with a relevant Qualification Statement. See an example of an acceptable Qualification Statement on the online Disclosure form.

Contact Mighty Fine at if you have any questions concerning continuing education credit. Please contact the program planner for all other questions.


Program Planner Contact Information:

Alan Beck, PhD, CHES, ACSM-CEP
Prevention Research Center
Washington University in St. Louis
One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1196
St. Louis, MO 63130
Phone: 314-935-0125

Bridgette Do, MPH
Department of Preventive Medicine
University of Southern California
2001 N. Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Phone: 858-537-7178