WHO/Europe and European Commission join forces to promote physical activity

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WHO and the European Commission are entering a new phase in their cooperation to promote health-enhancing physical activity and help European Union (EU) member states to enhance their policies and actions to support a healthier population.

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are a major burden in Europe, both in terms of human lives and health-care costs. But there is a powerful weapon against these threats – getting physically active.

Best practices for a healthier EU

The latest data from Eurobarometer show that 1 in 3 people in the EU are not active enough. Regular physical activity can make people happier, significantly reduce the number of NCD cases and save lives. If all people in the EU practice 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week as recommended by WHO, it will result in:

  • over 10 000 prevented deaths annually
  • €8 billion saved in health-care costs annually.

“With the meeting of the EU Physical Activity Focal Points Network in Brussels, we enter a new phase in our cooperation with WHO. This is a new step in the implementation of the EU’s recommendation on health-enhancing physical activity across sectors from 2013,” said Floor van Houdt, Head of the Sports Unit at the European Commission.

HEPA tools for better policies

“The collaboration between WHO/Europe and the European Commission goes way beyond promoting the direct benefits of exercise. Health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) policies recommended by WHO/Europe and the EU encompass a whole set of measures across multiple settings, such as schools, workplaces and cities, creating a cumulative positive effect on health, economies and social well-being,” said Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Regional Advisor for Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at WHO/Europe.

With the new phase, WHO/Europe and the European Commission are supporting EU Member States in the implementation of HEPA policies and tracking progress through the HEPA Monitoring Framework.

The framework, with its 23 indicators, allows for tailored policy adjustments based on real data collected every 3 years. Additionally, the EU Focal Points Network plays a crucial role in coordinating national data collection and fostering cooperation across sectors like sports, education, transportation and urban design.

Physical activity policies for sustainable development

Investing in physical activity can contribute to a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous world by achieving many of the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To support Member States on that road, WHO/Europe has launched the Race to the Finish campaign with a focus on progress towards the fulfilment of NCD-related SDG targets.

In that context, the WHO/Europe collaboration with the European Commission aims to accelerate progress towards global health targets by:

  • aligning with WHO’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018–2030 for a 15% reduction in physical inactivity
  • contributing to SDG 3.4 for a one-third reduction in premature NCD deaths by 2030.
  • making steps towards other SDG targets connected to the promotion of physical activity in the EU including SDGs 4.1 and 4.2 (quality education), SDG 5.1 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDGs 16.1 and 16b (peace, justice and strong institutions).

 

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