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GAPPA update

Almost 500 million people will develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) attributable to physical inactivity, between 2020 and 2030, costing US$ 27 billion annually, if governments don’t take urgent action to encourage more physical activity among their populations.

 

The Global status report on physical activity 2022, published by the World Health Organization, measures the extent to which governments are implementing recommendations to increase physical activity across all ages and abilities.

Data from 194 countries show that overall, progress is slow and that countries need to accelerate the development and implementation of policies to increase levels of physical activity and thereby prevent disease and reduce burden on already overwhelmed health care systems.

  • Less than 50% of countries have a national physical activity policy, of which less than 40% are operational
  • Only 30% of countries have national physical activity guidelines for all age groups
  • While nearly all countries report a system for monitoring physical activity in adults, 75% of countries monitor physical activity among adolescents, and less than 30% monitor physical activity in children under 5 years
  • In policy areas that could encourage active and sustainable transport, only just over 40% of countries have road design standards that make walking and cycling safer.

 

“We need more countries to scale up implementation of policies to support people to be more active through walking, cycling, sport, and other physical activity. The benefits are huge, not only for the physical and mental health of individuals, but also for societies, environments, and economies…” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “We hope countries and partners will use this report to build more active, healthier, and fairer societies for all.”

 

The economic burden of physical inactivity is significant and the cost of treating new cases of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will reach nearly US$ 300 billion by 2030, around US$ 27 billion annually.

 

Whilst national policies to tackle NCDs and physical inactivity have increased in recent years, currently 28% of policies are reported to be not funded or implemented. Considered a “best buy” for motivating populations to combat NCDs, the report showed that only just over 50% of countries ran a national communications campaign, or organised mass participation physical activity events in the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only stalled these initiatives, but it also affected other policy implementation which has widened inequities in access to and, opportunities for, engaging in physical activity for many communities.