Collaboration between WHO/European Commission (EC) on promoting physical activity for health

Promoting physical activity (PA) is a priority for public health action in the European Union (EU) and many of the WHO European Member States have responded well with the development of policies and interventions supporting PA. The effects of PA are far reaching, and in addition to preventing overweight and obesity, also benefit physical and mental well-being. Heart disease and diabetes for example can be reduced by up to 50% and significant reductions can be achieved for hypertension and some forms of cancer. Despite increasing knowledge about the importance of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) for the individual, for health systems and economies, the proportion of the general public who reach the recommended levels has not increased overall and in the EU, remains low.

Actions recommended:

This joint collaboration between WHO and European Commission – Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG- EAC), intends to reverse this trend with the following project objectives:

  • to develop and scale-up monitoring and surveillance of HEPA in the EU Member States;
  • implementation of National PA Focal Points Network within the WHO European Region (EU support to cover EU countries);
  • increase the number of available indicators of the Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity Information System (NOPA) database in the area of PA, as appropriate in compliance with the planned Council Recommendations on HEPA, and in updating the available data and creating useful visualization tools; and
  • provide technical assistance for the development of PA guidelines in certain Member States.

 Challenges and aims of the project

The EU Physical Activity Guidelines and the WHO PA Recommendations provide policy recommendations that can contribute to reversing the trend and some have been successfully implemented in several Member States. However, challenges exist and there is now a need to improve the design and implementation of policies that promote PA across all sectors. Currently there is little knowledge with regards to policy developments and the epidemiological situation in the field of PA in Europe. In order to develop and scale-up monitoring and surveillance of health enhancing PA in the EU, information about trends and tendencies and data, especially socio-demographic factors, needs to be improved.