• 13 – 16 April 2023
  • Exhibition Centre Cologne

23. January 2023, Advertorial

WHO's Dr Fiona Bull talks to HCM magazine with Europe Active

© anupam-mahapatra/UNSPLASH

Dr Fiona Bull, head of the physical activity unit at the World Health Organization (WHO), has told HCM that “demonstrating impact is key” for the physical activity sector when it comes to delivering on its potential to society. “Without it, we’re just asking governments for handouts,” she said.

While the industry is already good at demonstrating the health benefits of exercise, Bull underlined the importance of proving its impact in other areas. “We need to strengthen the evidence base around the wider benefits: economic, community, social and environmental,” she said. “In fact, work is already underway to improve the methodologies used to demonstrate social return on investment, in collaboration with organisations such as Europe Active.”

Bull’s comments were revealed during an exclusive interview with HCM, following the release of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022, a follow-up to 2018’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018–2030 (GAPPA).

The latter laid out the roadmap of recommended policies for countries to implement in order to improve engagement with and maximise opportunities relating to the mass adoption of physical activity practices.

The latest report details the cost to the public health system of not acting on physical activity, an analysis of each nation’s progress on policy implementation and recommendations on actions needed to recover from the pandemic and reach GAPPA targets.

It found that US$27bn a year in direct public healthcare costs – or US$300bn by 2030 – could be averted globally by increasing participation in physical activity. In turn this would prevent an estimated 500m new cases of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health conditions by 2030. “That US$300bn figure is equivalent to the cost of training around one million medical doctors in the UK or 2.3m in Brazil,” she said.

The report also revealed that progress isn’t fast enough to meet desired targets by 2030 across the 194 countries involved. Out of 29 policy indicators 18 are being achieved by fewer than half of the countries and only two are being achieved by over three-quarters. Bull says "progress is grindingly slow," while recognising the extent of the challenges being faced by governments.

With the goal of speeding up progress, Bull is launching a Register of Commitments, asking for the commitments of civil society, academics, industry and non-government organisations to support implementation in their countries.

She called on the industry to step up its inclusivity approaches – in terms of both consumers and staff – and encouraged the sector to work at shaping government policy on physical activity.

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