WHO Europe published two new progress reports during its 72nd Regional Committee meeting in September 2022. The first one is on the implementation of the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), and the second one on its Physical Activity Strategy.
NCDs are the main cause of mortality in Europe and responsible for almost 90% of deaths. Yet, many NCDs are preventable, which is why WHO is stepping up for more to be done in order to prevent them. Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be monitored, it will have lasting consequences. For instance, the proportion of individuals, including children and adolescents, not meeting the physical activity recommendations increased during that period.
Overall, however, the report shows that substantial progress has been made to achieve the Action Plan goals and targets. 28 countries in the European region are on track to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030. However, urgent measures are still needed to step up the NCD responses, such as increasing funding and putting NCDs at the center of policies towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Regarding physical activity, WHO keeps drawing attention to the health benefits of physical activity, particularly to reduce the risk of NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. It also helps to improve mental health by lowering levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Linking both Actions Plans, WHO emphasises that to achieve a 25% reduction in the risk of premature mortality from NCDs by 2025, it is crucial to achieve a 10% reduction of inactivity levels.
Overall, there has been significant progress to improve physical activity levels. However, the pandemic also led to a step back in that area, even though it also contributed to raising awareness about the importance of physical activity. Progress is therefore uneven between Member States and is yet to be made a priority in many countries. Additionally, WHO explains that increasing activity levels can be linked to climate change commitments through active mobility. Better promotion of physical activity can therefore be part of various policy developments.