A global strategy

Thanks to the range of conclusive findings over the past decade regarding physical activity as an important health determinant, there now exists a solid foundation for a clear and strong call to action. The WHO Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020, is one response to this call. This strategy provides Member States with a political mandate to initiate or expand actions to curb chronic disease and obesity by addressing four major risk factors, which include physical inactivity and diet.

The European level

Previously, the European Charter on Counteracting Obesity set the goal of curbing the obesity epidemic and reversing the current trend in the Region, and it detailed key actions needed to encourage healthier diets and physical activity. The European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020 now aims at making operational the concepts in the Charter.

The importance of physical activity for tackling the obesity epidemic and beyond was stressed at the conference and in the Charter, and is reflected in the guiding document 'Steps to health: a framework for action in the WHO European Region'.

Also the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health adopted by WHO European Member States at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health held in Parma, Italy, on 10-12 March 2010 underscores the importance of providing safe environments to enable physical activity, and commits countries to work towards the achievement of targets to that effect.

WHO/Europe collaborates with HEPA Europe ( European network for the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity), which works for better health through physical activity among all people by strengthening and supporting efforts to increase participation and improve conditions for healthy lifestyles.

The national level

At the national level, action across different sectors is needed to introduce key strategies for increasing physical activity in a variety of settings. Many countries have already developed national physical activity policies and action plans. WHO/Europe has collected them in an information system aiming at providing Member States with easily accessible information on physical activity promotion and at disseminating existing experiences to support policy developments.

The local level

Local governments have a crucial role to play in creating environments and opportunities for physical activity and active living. City leaders and other decision-makers can provide leadership, legitimacy and an enabling environment for developing and implementing policies that support active living for all citizens.