World Health Organization wants people more active to combat global burden of disease

June 4, 2018 GMT

The World Health Organization announced Monday it is stepping up action to combat inactivity among the global population, part of a campaign for health goals to be achieved by 2030 and to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and breast and colon cancer.

The action plan includes 20 policy changes that leaders can make to increase opportunity for physical activity through the environment providing more options for people to walk, cycle, plays sports, have space for active recreation, dance and play.

“Being active is critical for health. But in our modern world, this is becoming more and more of a challenge, largely because our cities and communities aren’t designed in the right ways,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.

“We need leaders at all levels to help people to take the healthier step. This works best at city level, where most responsibility lies for creating healthier spaces,” he said.

Worldwide, about one in five adults and four out of five adolescents are inactive, the WHO said in a statement. An estimated 71 percent of deaths globally are from non-communicable diseases, which can be greatly reduced by increasing regular physical activity, the organization said.

The populations with the least opportunity for physical activity include girls, women, older adults, poorer people, people with disabilities, those with chronic diseases, marginalized communities and indigenous people, the WHO said.

“You don’t need to be a professional athlete to choose to be active,” Dr. Tedros said. “Taking the stairs instead of the elevator makes a difference. Or walking or using the bike instead of driving to your neighborhood bakery. It’s the choices we make each and every day that can keep us healthy. Leaders must help make these choices the easy ones.”