European network for the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity: 8th conference and 13th annual meeting

Tomislav Sporiš

This year’s conference of the European network for the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA Europe) saw the highest number of participants to date. Over 355 attendees from 37 countries representing a broad range of disciplines and professional backgrounds gathered in Zagreb, Croatia, on 15–17 November 2017 to discuss approaches to promoting and measuring physical activity.

The last day of the conference coincided with HEPA Europe’s 13th annual meeting, where it elected a new chairperson and members of the Steering Committee.

Focus on approaches for promoting and measuring physical activity

The conference was hosted by the Faculty of Kinesiology of the University of Zagreb, cosponsored by WHO/Europe and held under the patronage of the President of Croatia. It provided a hub for productive interactions among scientists, policy-makers, practitioners and advocates of health enhancing-physical activity promotion.

Two workshops, 9 symposia, 17 parallel sessions, 70 poster presentations and 7 parallel working group sessions addressed the theme of “Modern approaches to physical activity promotion and measurement”.

Experts Dr Fiona Bull of WHO headquarters, Dr Zeliko Pedisic of Victoria University, Australia, Dr Gregory J. Welk of Iowa State University, United States of America, and Dr Susan Michie of University College London, United Kingdom, each delivered a keynote speech to underscore the importance of this year’s theme.

The programme also included a highly informative session dedicated to the collaboration with the European Union, particularly through the European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC). Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and Programme Manager of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at WHO/Europe, provided the WHO European perspective on the most recent policy developments in the field.

Dr Breda made special reference to the implementation of the Physical activity strategy for the WHO European Region 2016–2025, and the collaboration with the DG EAC to implement the European Union Council Recommendation on promoting health-enhancing physical activity across sectors.

Two new WHO publications on physical activity in urban settings

The conference provided an opportunity to highlight 2 new WHO/Europe publications. The first, “Towards more physical activity in cities”, was supported by the DG EAC. It offers guiding principles for the WHO European Region to move towards increased physical activity in urban settings by transforming public spaces in ways that promote physically active lifestyles.  

The second, “Health economic assessment tool (HEAT) for walking and for cycling. Methods and user guide on physical activity, air pollution, injuries and carbon impact assessment”, provides guidance for using the HEAT online tool. HEAT is used to estimate the value of reduced mortality that results from regular walking or cycling. It was recently updated to consider the health effects of road crashes, air pollution and carbon emissions along with the effects of physical activity.

The update of HEAT and the publication of the new user guide were supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme under EC-GA No. 602624-2 (FP7-HEALTH-2013 INNOVATION).

New chairperson for HEPA Europe elected

During the 13th annual meeting of HEPA Europe, member institutions were informed that, based on a previously conducted electronic poll, Dr Wanda Wendel-Vos of the Centre for Prevention and Health Services, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands, had been elected as HEPA Europe’s new chairperson.

They expressed their gratitude to Dr Tommi Vasankari of the Urho Kekkonen (UKK) Institute for Health Promotion Research, Finland, for his leadership and excellent chairing of HEPA Europe between 2013 and 2017.

The network was also informed that all candidates for the Steering Committee had been elected.