Although the situation is different in every country, there is a glimmer of light regarding the COVID-19 pandemic with increased vaccine distribution on the way. At this pivotal moment, we want to take a moment to reflect upon the growth and development of the Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) Global Network and our emergence from the pandemic as strong as ever.
EIM started as a U.S.-based initiative in 2007 under the leadership of then ACSM President Bob Sallis, MD. Two years later, we welcomed our first international partner (EIM China) followed by the development of EIM national centers in Australia, Canada, and South Africa in 2010. The greatest expansion of the EIM Global Network occurred in 2015 and 2018 with the addition of eight and seven new national centers, respectively. Currently, there are 36 active EIM national centers in the EIM Global Network - 11 in Asia, 9 in Europe, 9 in Latin America, 2 in Africa, 2 in the Middle East, 2 in North America, and 1 in Australasia. These national centers are most commonly ‘hosted’ by universities, health systems, and sports medicine organizations.
Within the EIM Global Network, the most common activity continues to be the training of healthcare providers. In 2020 alone, despite COVID-19 hampering in-person training efforts, EIM national centers reported conducting 69 trainings for more than 5,000 healthcare providers. Similarly, EIM national centers conducted 58 trainings for more than 1,600 exercise professionals. While these trainings have traditionally involved in-person workshops, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed EIM leaders to consider virtual alternatives, increasing the reach of our activities at a fraction of the cost. This may have a long-term impact on strategies for maximizing our reach and engagement in EIM educational efforts. This is particularly true in Latin America where a new, online training course is engaging healthcare providers across the entire region.
However, activities within the EIM Global Network go far beyond providing physical activity-related trainings to healthcare providers and exercise professionals.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of all the incredible activities taking place throughout the EIM Global Network.
Despite these successes, we are not without our challenges. The EIM Global Network has seen the loss of some EIM national centers over the past few years and a lack of economic support continues to be a challenge. However, interest in physical activity remains high, especially as the pandemic illustrated the importance of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity (such as a daily 30-minute brisk walk) in strengthening our immune systems and managing stress and anxiety. Even as the majority of our society remains focused on fighting off infectious disease, there seems to be a growing awareness of the importance of physical activity as part of our own self-care and holistic wellness efforts, as well as in the prevention of chronic medical conditions associated with increased risk of adverse outcomes related to COVID-19.
The future of the EIM Global Network looks bright as we emerge from this pandemic. There continues to be widespread interest from leaders in the fields of public health, medicine, and exercise professionals from around the world. The EIM Global Center is actively working with leaders from a number of countries to develop new EIM national centers in Africa (Lesotho, Namibia and Uganda), Europe (Cypress), Latin America (Costa Rica, Uruguay), the Middle East (Iran, Saudi Arabia), and South Asia (India). Although assembling the right leadership team, engaging multi-sectoral partners and completing the EIM National Center Launch Guide takes time, we hope to announce the addition of several new national centers to the EIM Global Network by the end of 2021.
Every journey has its challenges and moments of triumph. The team at EIM Global is working hard to provide support via webinars, newsletters, website(s), consulting and sharing ACSM/EIM COVID-19 resources. EIM national centers continue to make important headway promoting physical activity as an integral part of our healthcare paradigm. We are extremely thankful for the dedication and commitment of everyone in the network and excited to see what the next few years have in store for all of us!