The International Olympic Committee (IOC) praised the adoption yesterday of a “historic” report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the international fight against childhood obesity. For the first time, through this report, the WHO has placed as much importance on physical activity as diet.
The fight against childhood obesity is a major cause for the WHO, which on 26 May adopted a detailed report on this issue calling for action, and in which the Olympic Movement is fully involved, in particular through the work of Jacques Rogge. Indeed, the IOC Honorary President (who was President from 2001 to 2013) represented the sports/physical activity sector on the 11-member commission, which worked on this report for two years.
“Childhood obesity is reaching alarming proportions in many countries and poses an urgent and serious challenge. The Sustainable Development Goals, set by the United Nations in 2015, identify prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases as core priorities. Among the noncommunicable disease risk factors, obesity is particularly concerning and has the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to increased life expectancy,” states the WHO report in its introduction.
In the area of health, physical activity is one of the four pillars for preventing noncommunicable diseases. Its effects are particularly recognised on cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, depression, osteoporosis and obesity.
Three out of six recommendations put forward by the WHO to “end childhood obesity” call for the implementation of comprehensive programmes that encourage physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviours in children and adolescents. As an example, the second recommendation proposes to “provide guidance to children and adolescents, their parents, caregivers, teachers and health professionals on healthy body size, physical activity, sleep behaviours and appropriate use of screen-based entertainment”, ensuring that “adequate facilities are available on school premises and in public spaces for physical activity during recreational time for all children (including those with disabilities), with the provision of gender-friendly spaces where appropriate”.
A historic document
A partner to the WHO in this initiative, the IOC praises the publication of this report as a historic document for the promotion of sport and physical activity. The IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 aligns with the WHO’s objectives, particularly through recommendations 7 (Strengthen relationships with organisations managing sport for people with different abilities), 21 (Strengthen IOC advocacy capacity), 22 (Spread Olympic values-based education) and 26 (Further blend sport and culture). The IOC intends to play a central role in promoting physical activity through numerous programmes, whether through its Sport and Active Society Commission; the worldwide celebration of Olympic Day on 23 June, the key message of which is “Get active!”; its research on health and youth development through its Medical and Scientific Commission; or the worldwide promotion of sport in all its forms, regardless of a person’s age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.
“Sport strengthens not only the body, but also the mind. It is also an ideal way of integrating minorities into society and teaching the essential values of the Olympic Movement: the quest for excellence, respect and friendship,” declared Jacques Rogge. “This essential report underlines the importance of physical activity. It indicates that being physically active at a young age and throughout one’s life brings important benefits for health, and the sports movement plays a central role in this initiative. We must therefore continue to work with the Olympic Movement and our partners to promote physical activity and participation in sport. We must also work with governments so that they are fully involved in these areas.”
The IOC has been working with the WHO for over 20 years. In 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding was renewed between the two organisations to implement common actions. Considering “physical inactivity as one of the most important risk factors for noncommunicable diseases”, the two parties undertook to promote physical activity worldwide, knowing that “sport is the key to a healthy lifestyle”. In 2015, the IOC detailed sport’s contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, insisting on the benefits that it brings, particularly in terms of health and education. Its Medical and Scientific Commission resolutely continues research to support and promote physical activity among young people.
Read the full WHO report here.
Read the article on the IOC and youth development here.