Australia needs physical activity policy: Heart Foundation

Go red for women: young woman jogging outdoors

An unprecedented overview of physical activity and public health across the globe has reinforced the need for a comprehensive policy response in Australia, the Heart Foundation said today.

The Global Observatory for Physical Activity has unveiled the latest Physical Activity Country Cards, including for Australia, at an announcement in London overnight.

The Observatory is a council of the International Society of Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH).

Adjunct Professor, Trevor Shilton, of the National Heart Foundation and Chairman, Global Advocacy for Physical Activity, says of the 131 participating countries, 37 have specific national plans for the promotion of physical activity and another 65 include physical activity as part of plans for the prevention of non-communicable diseases.

“This does not include Australia as yet, however the opportunity still exists for the Federal Government to develop and implement a comprehensive, funded National Physical Activity Action Plan,” Prof Shilton says.

“The need for action is all too clear, with only 43% of Australian adults active enough for good health, ranking us 94th out of the 131 participating countries.

“That’s why the Heart Foundation along with partner organisations have been advocating strongly for a nationally coordinated policy response.

“The early signs are encouraging, with the major political parties now acknowledging that physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic disease – Australia’s leading health challenge.”

Prof Shilton says the release of the Physical Activity Country Cards represents an historic opportunity for policy-makers to implement a popular and cost-effective reform of benefit to all Australians.

“If 37 other countries, including notable examples like the United States and the United Kingdom, see fit to implement a national physical activity plan, then there’s no good reason for us not to follow suit,” he says.

“We already have the foundations in place with the recent release of the ‘Move More, Sit Less’ Canberra Communique.

“The communique outlines nine priority action areas and a comprehensive set of approaches and policy initiatives designed to encourage Australians to start moving again.

“What’s needed now is a commitment from all parties to develop and fund a National Physical Activity Action Plan. Proceeding without a funded plan is no longer an option.”

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