Physical inactivity as a policy problem: applying a concept from policy analysis to a public health issue
Despite the recent rapid development of policies to counteract physical inactivity (PI), only a small number of systematic analyses on the evolution of these policies exists. In this article we analyze how PI, as a public health issue, "translates" into a policy-making issue. First, we discuss why PI has become an increasingly important public health issue during the last two decades. We then follow Guy Peters and conceptualize PI as a "policy problem" that has the potential to be linked to policy instruments and policy impact. Analysis indicates that PI is a policy problem that i) is chronic in nature; ii) involves a high degree of political complexity; iii) can be disaggregated into smaller scales; iv) is addressed through interventions that can be difficult to "sell" to the public when their benefits are not highly divisible; v) cannot be solved by government spending alone; vi) must be addressed through a broad scope of activities; and vii) involves interdependencies among both multiple sectors and levels of government.We conclude that the new perspective on PI proposed in this article might be useful and important for i) describing and mapping policies to counteract PI in different contexts; ii) evaluating whether or not existing policy instruments are appropriate to the policy problem of PI, and iii) explaining the factors and processes that underlie policy development and implementation. More research is warranted in all these areas. In particular, we propose to focus on comparative analyses of how the problem of PI is defined and tackled in different contexts, and on the identification of truly effective policy instruments that are designed to "solve" the PI policy problem.