Noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors

Governance: Development of a draft global action plan to promote physical activity

Assignment given to WHO by the Executive Board

The Executive Board at its 140th session decided to request the Director-General to develop a draft global action plan to promote physical activity for consideration by Member States at the 71st World Health Assembly in May 2018, through the 142nd Executive Board in January 2018.

Why do we need a global action plan to promote physical activity?

Physical inactivity is one of the leading behavioural risk factors for the leading causes of NCDs, namely heart disease, stroke, breast and colon cancers and diabetes. Conversely, regular physical activity is associated with improved well-being, as well as enhanced social and mental health. However, inactivity is on the rise in many countries, and globally one in four adults, and four out of five adolescents, do not meet the global recommendations.

In 2013, a global voluntary target was set by the World Health Assembly to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by 2025, but progress towards achieving this target has been slow. Although 86% of countries have developed national NCD action plans, which – in 71% of countries -- include operational plans for reducing physical inactivity, progress on implementation has been challenging.

New opportunities exist to link the achievement of the NCD targets, including an increase in global levels of physical activity to the attainment of SDG targets specifically targets in health (3.4, 3.6, and 3.9), quality education (4.2, and 4.1), gender equity (5.1), inequalities (10.2 and 10.3), sustainable cities and communities (11.2, 11.3 11.6 and 11.7), climate change (13.1 and 13.2), and peaceful and inclusive societies: (16.1 and 16.b).

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the commitment made by world leaders to develop ambitious national SDG responses provides an opportunity to refocus and renew efforts at promoting physical activity. The new global action plan will leverage the contributions of all relevant sectors, in particular, environment, education, health, sports and technology to accelerate progress in achieving the global voluntary NCD targets set by the World Health Assembly for 2025 and the SDG targets set for 2030.

The plan will provide policy options for Member States, international partners and WHO, and developed in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, taking into account current scientific knowledge, available evidence, a review of international experience, innovations, and data.

Which WHO strategies provide guidance to date?

  • The World Health Assembly in 2004, adopted the first “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health”, which described the actions needed to increase physical activity worldwide. The Strategy urged stakeholders to take action at global, regional and local levels to increase physical activity.
  • In 2010, WHO published the first "Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health", provided evidence-based consensus on the recommended duration, intensity and frequency of physical activity for health benefits across the life course.
  • In 2013, the World Health Assembly agreed on a set of global voluntary targets which includes a 25% reduction of premature mortality from NCDs, a 10% decrease in physical inactivity by 2025 along with a 25% relative reduction of raised blood pressure and halt in the rise of obesity by 2025.
  • The World Health Assembly also adopted the Global Action Plan on the prevention and treatment of NCDs 2013 - 2020 which provides broad guidance on how countries can achieve the voluntary targets including increasing levels of physical activity by 2025.

What is the process to develop the global action plan?

The process which the Secretariat is following to develop the global action plan is as follows:

  • May 2017: The Secretariat will develop a zero draft of the global action plan (WHO Discussion Paper 0). The zero draft will include the proposed vision, strategic objectives and set of actions/interventions for all relevant stakeholders, which when collectively implemented, will increase levels of physical activity and improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of all peoples.
  • June 2017: The Secretariat will convene a technical expert meeting to review the zero draft. The output of the meeting will include a first draft (WHO Discussion Paper 1).
  • July- September 2017: The Secretariat will host an open web-based consultation on the first draft (WHO Discussion Paper 1) from mid-July until end of August 2017. WHO will invite non-State Actors in official relations to organize face to face consultations and webinars with their relevant stakeholders on the draft. In addition to the online consultation, the Secretariat will convene regional consultations, where feasible, with Member States. The contributions received will serve as an input for the work of the Secretariat to develop a second draft (WHO Discussion Paper 2).
  • September 2017: The Secretariat will convene a consultation with United Nations agencies in Geneva on the second draft. The contributions received will serve as an input for the work of the Secretariat to develop a third draft (WHO Discussion Paper 3).
  • October 2017: The Secretariat will submit the third draft to the WHO Department of Governing Bodies for processing and translation, in time for consideration at the 142nd session of the WHO Executive Board in January 2018 (EB142).
  • January 2018: Member States will consider the draft global action plan at EB142.
  • March 2018: The Secretariat will submit a final draft to the WHO Department of Governing Bodies, taking into account comments received, if any, from Member States at EB142.
  • May 2018: Member States will consider the final draft.

This website will be used to publish the draft plans as the process moves forward.