This article is part of our special report Promoting healthy lifestyles – which interventions are most effective?.
The European Commission launched the Tartu Call for a Healthy Lifestyle a year ago, mostly to address rising obesity in the EU and promote physical activity, and it has already produced “concrete results”, Tibor Navracsics, the commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, told EURACTIV.com.
“We launched the Tartu Call just one year ago in order to promote healthy lifestyles. To achieve this goal we committed to taking actions and work across policy areas such as sport, food or research. Already today, the Call has produced some concrete results,” Navracsics emphasised.
“But more needs to be done in the coming months and years to address the actions and commitments set out in the Call,” the Hungarian Commissioner said.
The Tartu Call for a Healthy Lifestyle is an initiative launched in September 2017 by the Commission’s Education and Sports, Health and Agriculture Directorates-General (DGs).
In light of the rising obesity levels combined with the health implications of inactivity, the EU executive suggested a number of actions, which aim to enhance people’s education about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and increase investment in sports projects.
The latest Eurobarometer on sport and physical activity showed that a growing number of EU citizens abstain from exercising, with around 40% saying they don’t have the time. Particularly, 46% of respondents said that they never exercise or play sports, which represents a 4% increase compared to 2014 rates.
The Commissioner explained that the funding of projects to promote physical activity in 2018 has increased by €1 million, a 15% increase.
Ahead of the European Week of Sport (23–30 September), Navracsics noted that the Call continued to feature high on the agenda of policymakers and other stakeholders, for instance at the EU Sport Forum that took place in Sofia in March 2018 under the Bulgarian EU Presidency.
“We are also trying to raise awareness of the benefits of healthy lifestyles and have worked hard to enhance dialogue across European health and sports networks, the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”
The Commission has made progress in a large number of the Tartu actions, which mainly focus on young people. However, considering that a holistic approach must be adopted, tangible results are only expected in the long run.
The executive has included physical activity as a priority for the High-Level Group of government representatives on nutrition and physical activity, and of the EU Platform for Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
“Next to food reformulation and marketing, physical activity is one of the key priorities of both Groups – one of the three annual meetings is dedicated to physical activity. The new Steering Group on Promotion and Prevention has identified the Swedish experience on ‘physical activity on prescription’ as one of the best practices to promote and fund in 2018 – the implementation of this action is starting soon,” an EU spokesperson said.
In an effort to improve the collection of data on people’s attitudes and habits across the EU, the Commission holds regular discussions with member states to identify their needs in these fields and examines how EU funding can help to address the knowledge gaps.
“We are working with the network of Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA) focal points and the WHO on the publication of the new country factsheets on HEPA, which we hope to publish shortly,” the spokesperson added.
In the field of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the executive has prioritised the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme, targeting pupils at schools.
“Concerning nutrition, the current CAP is already giving a contribution to the promotion of healthy lifestyles, in particular by co-financing promotion campaigns to stimulate the consumption of fruit and vegetables, which is below the consumption of the WHO. Within the total budget for promoting EU products, fruit and vegetables have the biggest share,” the EU spokesperson noted.
“We are also planning other important moments to revisit the Tartu Call: at the 2019 EU Sport Forum, and at a conference on healthy lifestyles to be organised mid-2019 where we will take stock of progress made, and possible follow-up,” the EU official concluded.