Turkey accelerates its efforts to create a physically active society


Physical inactivity, along with other lifestyle-related health risk factors (such as unhealthy diet, tobacco use and alcohol consumption), is becoming increasingly prevalent in developing countries that face rapid economic and social development, urbanization and industrialization. It has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (accounting for 6% of deaths globally). Moreover, physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause for approximately 21–25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and approximately 30% of ischaemic heart disease burden.

In line with global targets, Turkey has committed to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by 2025. To achieve the set targets and identify the next steps to increase physical activity levels, the Ministry of Health, Gazi University and the WHO Country Office in Turkey jointly organized the “First Collaboration and Cooperation Workshop on Healthy Lifestyle: Physical Activity”.

A total of 120 people participated in the workshop, including representatives from central and local levels of the Ministry of Health, civil society and private sector organizations, as well as family physicians, academicians and experts from WHO.

“Death and illness linked to physical inactivity is at disturbing levels – increasingly so in developing countries – and the world needs to take action to reverse this worrying trend,” stated Dr Pavel Ursu, Head of the WHO Country Office in Turkey.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Hüseyin Çelik, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, said: “Increasing physical activity is a societal, not just an individual problem. It therefore demands a population-based, multisectoral, multidisciplinary and culturally relevant approach.”

Summarizing Turkey’s physical activity initiative, Professor Seçil Özkan from the Public Health Department of Gazi University highlighted the importance of the threat posed to public health and the determination to reduce physical inactivity levels in Turkey with a multisectoral approach, ensuring the participation of the private sector.
The workshop participants were divided into five working groups to share their experiences and make recommendations for physical activity, including identifying the responsible institution and available budget. The groups then met at the plenary session to present the discussion points, followed by a question and answer session on the next steps.

The organizing committee agreed to meet on 21 December to map future activities and draft a collaboration protocol with other ministries and private sector companies.