Role of the health sector
Action on physical activity often lies in the domain of sectors such as urban planning, transport, education and sport. The following are examples of interventions from different sectors that support physical activity.
- Finland, Germany and the Netherlands increased bicycling. In Finland, the net benefits of doubling cycling (from reducing injuries and other health effects) were estimated to exceed the costs by €100-200 million per year.
- In 2004, the county of Nordland, Norway started a comprehensive programme to provide pupils in all 210 primary schools with at least 60 minutes' physical activity during every school day.
- A new concept defined health as the first priority of the national sports policy in Switzerland and more physically active people as its main objective.
- Primary care providers in the county of Östergötland, Sweden prescribed physical activity to patients. An evaluation found that, after 12 months, 49% of those who received the prescription reported adhering to it, and an additional 21% were regularly active.
The health sector is best placed to forge the right alliances and to take forward effective action, so it should provide stewardship in the field of physical activity. It can take the lead in six areas:
- making physical activity part of primary prevention
- documenting effective interventions and disseminating research
- demonstrating the economic benefit of investing in physical activity
- connecting relevant policies
- advocacy and exchanging information
- leading by example.