Prioritise active travel, World Health Org tells Governments in diabetes paper

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A new WHO report centering on the effect of diabetes on the global population has called on Governments to build exercise into our daily lives by making it easier and safer for people to travel outside of cars.

“The physical or built environment plays an important role in facilitating physical activity for many people. Urban planning and active transport policies can ensure that walking, cycling and other forms of non-motorized transport are accessible and safe for all,” Says the report. “The physical environment can also provide sports, recreation and leisure facilities, and ensure there are adequate safe spaces for active living for both children and adults.”

With Diabetes now affecting as many as one in 11 adults, the World Health Organisation has stressed that the metabolic disease’s spread is only accelerating and our lifestyles must shoulder some of the blame. Cases of diabetes are said to have quadrupled since 1980, with 422 million currently living with the condition.

“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.”

The recommendation continues: “Create supportive built and social environments for physical activity – transport and urban planning policy measures can facilitate access to safe, affordable opportunities for physical activity. Point-of-decision prompts can encourage more active transport – to use stairs versus a lift, for example.”

The report is likely to fall on deaf ears, with the UK Government, for example, committing less spend to cycling over the next five years than the forecasted tally for MP’s expenses.

The report stressed that policy intervention is crucial if increases in Diabetes are to be staved off, warning that the “poorest groups in society, especially women, may have less time and fewer resources to participate in leisure-time activity, making active transport and incidental physical activity throughout the day much more important.”

At the end of March the European Commission also stressed that city design should now prioritise active travel.

You can read the WHO report in full here.