WHO launches action plan for physical activity

Photo: WHO

Photo: WHO


By Stine Alvad
With the slogan ‘More active people for a healthier world’, WHO has developed a 20-point action plan aiming at activating ‘everyone, everywhere, everyday’.

A 15% reduction of physical inactivity by 2030. That is the declared target of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) action plan that was launched in Lisbon, Portugal, this week.

The global action plan on physical activity 2018 – 2030 (GAPPA) calls on civil society as well as governments, on the private sector, the broader health sector and research institutions to step up in making the plan come into action.

The WHO action plan consists of 20 policy actions falling under four overall strategic objectives:

  1. Creating an active society (attitudes and values)
  2. Creating active environments (safety and accessibility)
  3. Creating active lives (opportunities)
  4. Creating active systems (governance and research)

To ensure more opportunities for being physically active, countries can use the policy actions, and in combination they will be able to help create more active societies for all, WHO predicts.

"Being active is critical for health. But in our modern world, this is becoming more and more of a challenge, largely because our cities and communities aren’t designed in the right ways," said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a WHO press release on the launch on Monday 4 June.

"We need leaders at all levels to help people to take the healthier step. This works best at city level, where most responsibility lies for creating healthier spaces,” Dr Tedros said.

Good for the health – and the economy
23% of adults and 81% of adolescents (11-17 years of age) do not meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations for physical activity. And regular physical activity can prevent and help treat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, overweight and obesity, while also improving mental health and quality of life.

According to the WHO, NCDs are responsible for 71% of all deaths globally and has an estimated cost of US$54 billion in direct health care.

There are great national differences and while the most developed countries have the lowest level of physical activity in spite of having relatively easy access, less developed countries also have challenges such as little or limited access to physical activity either because of the physical environment or because of diverse opportunities.

“This is not about telling people to be more active,” says Professor Fiona Bull, Program Manager in NCD Prevention at the WHO according to a report on the plan by the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA). “It focuses attention and the need for action on the causes of why so many people are less active – and these are cultural, environmental and economic as well as individual factors.”

The plan has been well received, among others by ISCA Secretary General Jacob Schouenborg.

“The plan is an excellent global driver for the physical activity agenda in the years ahead. It is well-formulated, evidence-based, cross-sectoral and balanced,” Schouenborg said in a comment about the launch event. But he also underlined that for the plan to have an effect, key players must “step up and engage more”.

“The biggest risk with the plan is that nothing happens at all!”

According to Schouenborg, the launch of the plan seemed very oriented towards the professional sector of sport and could have had more focus on what he defines as the “real agents of change”, the civil organisations and/or grassroots sports.

The 20 policy actions are designed through a consultation process that has included stakeholders from a wide variety of sectors and are also interconnected with 13 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

To support national efforts to implement the plan, WHO is launching an advocacy campaign to promote physical activity under the title: Let’s Be Active: Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday.


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