The NCD Alliance has welcomed More Active People for a Healthier World, the new WHO Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA) 2018-2030, launched today in Lisbon, saying it has the potential to prevent huge numbers of deaths and disability from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) across the globe.

“We´re at a tipping point when it comes to physical activity, said Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance. “For myriad reasons the world is just not active enough. In some populations, up to 80% of adults are not sufficiently active to realize the protective benefits of physical activity, and are consequently at increased risk of poor health".

“But we optimistically believe that the new Action Plan can raise the profile and catalyze sustained changes that would help to protect millions of people from NCDs like cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and mental disability.

“Promoting physical activity is a cost-effective, health and development promoting opportunity, and the Action Plan should catalyze governments and stakeholders to step up with action, collaboration and public policies that promote the well-being of all people everywhere for a more active and healthy world.”

Protective benefits of physical activity

Being sufficiently active can reduce the severity of existing NCDs and risk of developing other simultaneous conditions. Meanwhile, many actions to ensure environments are conducive to physical activity will also benefit, including road safety, air quality, and community cohesion, contributing win-win opportunities for both improving health and achieving other Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

As with other NCD risk factors like unhealthy diets, tobacco, and harmful alcohol use, the Action Plan recognizes that inequity is an underlying determinant of how active populations and groups within them are. While population-wide policies can strengthen accessibility, affordability and ensure everyone has the opportunity to be more active, targeted physical activity promotion is also necessary to ensure the more vulnerable and least active groups are not left behind.

“Low- and middle-income countries are undergoing rapid globalization and urbanization as well as experiencing a transition from the burden of communicable to noncommunicable diseases – so it is timely that this report provides impetus for integrating physical activity promoting policies through, for example, urban planning and workplace policies that facilitate physical activity," said Dain.

“With health systems in these countries not yet equipped to fully cope with chronic conditions, it is vital that health promotion and NCD prevention is a key element of planning for achievable and sustainable universal health coverage.“