New WHO Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity and Health
WHO recently designated the University of Zurich (Switzerland) as the new WHO Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity and Health. The Physical Activity and Health Unit and other groups of the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute (EBPI) will support the implementation of the Physical activity strategy for the WHO European Region 2016–2025.
A lack of physical activity increases the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as diabetes and cancer. In Switzerland alone, insufficient physical activity is responsible for at least 325 000 cases of disease and 1200 premature deaths per year. This leads to annual direct treatment costs of more than 1 billion Swiss francs.
The Physical Activity and Health Unit at the EBPI has been focusing intensively on the health consequences of inadequate physical activity. Their research has garnered international recognition, leading to WHO designating the Unit as the new WHO Collaborating Centre.
“Establishing the WHO Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity and Health extends WHO’s network in the field and provides us with a crucial partner to increase our capacity to research and advocate for the promotion of physical activity in the Region and globally,” says Dr Gauden Galea, Divisional Director at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Since launching the Physical activity strategy for the WHO European Region in 2016, WHO has set the intention to work out a global plan of action for physical activity by 2018.
Work of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity and Health
Over the next 4 years, the WHO Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity and Health will seek to promote physical activity beyond the traditional provision of information, placing an emphasis on reaching people through supportive living environments. This includes doctors in their practices or at hospitals asking patients about their usual physical activity, and providing initial counselling to improve it.
The Physical Activity and Health research group is developing the scientific foundation, materials and education modules to support doctors and other health professionals in taking this approach. It will also develop strategies and tools in the areas of urban and traffic planning to support the integration of physical activity, such as walking and cycling, into everyday life.
The research group will identify particularly promising national approaches for promoting physical activity, and collaborate with alliances and WHO networks. HEPA Europe, the European network for the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity, with over 160 member institutions from 36 countries, will be a strong partner in this regard. The group will also develop guidance for relevant topics within the scope of the Physical activity strategy, which will be supplemented by meetings of experts.