On 5 December, The Lancet published a new article together with WHO on the cost of inaction on physical activity, following the recent publication of the first Global Status Report on Physical Activity. In this context, physical inactivity is defined as not meeting the WHO recommendations.
During the webinar, Zoe Mullan, Editor in Chief The Lancet Global Health, explained that this article details the current state of knowledge of the cost of not addressing physical inactivity on health systems. She remarked that inactivity is one of the leading causes of worldwide mortality, as it is a major risk factor for many non-communicable diseases.
Dr Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of the Department of Health Promotion, emphasized the importance of developing guidance on how to better campaign for physical activity promotion. More work is needed to estimate the costs of inactivity in several areas of society e.g. the economy, health systems, sustainability, inclusion and communities.
Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the WHO Physical Activity Unit, stated that there is still much to be done but we are on the right path. There is strong science supporting our work to better promote physical activity. She explained that their Global Status Report, however, showed that progress is slow and uneven. Out of the 29 policy indicators, only two are achieved by more than three quarters of all countries.
Dr Andreia Santos, who also worked on the Global Status Report, then explained that there is now a new price tag if we do not act. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be around 500 million new cases of NCD and mental health issues, which will cost around $27 billion per year globally. The aim of this paper was to provide a global estimate of the direct cost of the diagnoses and treatment of diseases due to physical inactivity on health systems. Having a clear estimate of cost strongly reinforces the need for action. Dr Santos noted that there are still some limitations in the study that should be addressed in future publications. For instance, this is a gross cost estimate, and there should be future analyses of net costs for interventions in physical activity.