Leading EU politicians, including have expressed concern at the growing number of young people affected by obesity. Results of a Commission study on young people's lifestyles are judged "alarming" and Commissioner Kyprianou has pointed out that "Europe's expanding waistline brings with it devastating consequences for public health and huge economic costs".
The World Health Organisation (WHO) regional office for Europe argues that participation in sports and other physical activities "is influenced by the built, natural and social environments in which people live," and therefore urges urban planners to take this evidence into account when deciding on city structures.
The UK sport minister Richard Caborn said that the recent Active People survey (2006) on sports participation in the UK showed disappointing levels of participation in active recreation. "In the last decade we have invested a record £3 billion of public money in state-of-the-art facilities across England that are both accessible and affordable. The government can only do so much. Individuals must start to take responsibility for their health and fitness too."
Following the 2006 Health Survey for England results stating that the UK will face a serious obesity problem by 2010, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed, in August 2006, a public health minister to work across government on a new strategy to increase the UK population's fitness and activity levels.
Finland is also currently preparing a national sports action plan to promote physical activity to its citizens. The final aim is to promote citizens' well being and health.
A report authored by Professor Ken Hardman of the UK's University of Worcester for the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education, recommends a) introduction of compulsory physical education in schools b) modernisation of the physical education curriculum, and c) adoption of a minimum two hours physical education per week, with the aim of increasing it to three hours in the long term.
"Let's use schools' physical education facilities after school hours, in the evening and weekends as well, to provide children with more opportunities to be physically active. I'm sure that children would be happy to play, for example, basketball at their school's sport hall after school hours and that their parents would be happy to know that they are doing so," said MEP Karin Resetarits (Austria, Alde).
MEP Ljudmila Novak (Slovenia, EPP-ED): "Local authorities need to be forced to do something to increase access to sporting facilities. Many families currently live too far away from any sport facilities to be able to take part in sports."
Dr van Bottenburg from the WJH Mulier Institut says that what is required is not so much statistical data on sport participation but comparable data across time and between countries, which currently lacks in the EU. He argues that the EU could play a stimulating role through co-ordination, agenda-setting, research and funding.