• Olivia Kierul

The 150th WHO Executive Board Meeting

The 150th World Health Organization Executive Board Meeting for 2022 took place between January 24th and 29th, where members agreed on the agenda for the World Health Assembly. The WHO executive board consists of 34 members who serve three-year terms coming from six regions; the African region, Region of the Americas, South-East Asian region, European region, Eastern Mediterranean region, and Western Pacific region. This year, pandemic strategies were not the only topic of discussion. Prevention of non-communicable diseases was a significant component of the agenda, specifically addressing prominent current world health issues such as obesity, diabetes, mental health, and excessive alcohol consumption.

The executive board outlined that their primary goal is to lower disease rates by addressing the root causes of these conditions, such as malnutrition and physical inactivity, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Data from 2010 estimates that worldwide, 23% of adults and 81 % of adolescents aged 11-17 do not meet the recommended level of physical activity required to stay healthy. The main recommendation they outlined regarding tackling the global problem of obesity was nutrition labeling and marketing policies, as well as highlighting the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030. This action plan encompasses incorporating physical activity into "work, life, and play" and using sport and recreation to promote physical activity for people of all backgrounds and demographics. It is established that social and economic inequities and gender play a role in the opportunities for adults and adolescents to implement adequate physical activity into their lives. Specifically listed are "Girls, women, older adults, people of low socioeconomic position, people with disabilities and chronic diseases, marginalized populations, indigenous people and the inhabitants of rural communities ."

Although these initiatives to increase physical activity require funding, physical inactivity also takes an economic toll. Direct health care due to diseases and conditions arising from physical inactivity was estimated to cost INT$ 54 billion globally. It is estimated that 1-3% of health care expenses on a national level result from physical inactivity. (WHO) The WHO's target for this initiative is a 15% decrease in global inactivity among adults and adolescents by 2030. Also enumerated were four objectives to help this happen: creating active societies, active environments, active people, and active systems. The WHO also enumerated this initiative as implementing a "systems based approach," which is defined as "requir(ing) each country to identify a strategic combination of policy responses for implementation over the short term (2–3 years), medium term (3–6 years), and longer-term (7–12 years)". This action plan is also informed by guiding principles including a human rights approach, equity across the life course, evidence-based practice, proportional universality, policy coherence and health in all policies, engagement, and empowerment of policymakers, families, people, and communities multisectoral partnerships.

Furthermore, the executive board meeting was invited to consider a draft decision that included the effects of COVID-19 on people living with or susceptible to these non-communicable diseases. These effects include delays in diagnosis, delays in treatment, higher susceptibility to getting infected, and increased risk for inactivity, unhealthy diets, and substance abuse. The executive board meeting for the World Health Organization for the year 2022 established many plans for decreasing malnutrition and physical inactivity, thus hoping to indirectly lower rates of non-communicable diseases and increase the overall health of the global population.

The long-term impacts of this plan could have a prominent influence on the population's overall health globally. The CDC has enumerated multiple positive effects of increased physical activity. Physical exercise can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, some types of cancers and improve the overall quality of life. Increased physical activity worldwide will not only improve physical health but can also help combat mental health problems. The WHO has identified depression as one of the leading causes of disability and suicide as the second leading cause of death in teens and young adults (15 - 29-year-olds). Physical exercise is considered a lifestyle change that positively impacts mental health. According to an article by Sharman, Madaan, and Petty, aerobic exercise increases circulation to the brain. It influences the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which significantly affects the physiological expression of stress. Exercise has also been shown to improve self-esteem and cognitive function, improve sleep, better endurance, stress relief, reduce cholesterol, improve mood, and many other benefits. The plan for increased worldwide physical activity has the potential to improve worldwide physical and mental health and increase global productivity, happiness, and well-being.