The 3rd International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health concluded today with the release of The Toronto Charter on Physical Activity: A Global Call for Action.
Two years in development, and the result of extensive consultation with researchers and public health practitioners around the world, the Charter is intended to be a “unifying tool” for advocates of physical activity to push for greater political and social commitments to support physical activity for everyone, according to Dr. Fiona Bull from Loughborough University in Leicestershire UK who co-chaired the committee developing the Charter.
The other co-chair, Dr. Lise Gauvin from the University of Montreal, said that the Charter builds on other successful Charters like the 1978 Alma Alta Declaration on Primary Health Care and the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, which both contained consensual principles on action that can support advocacy.
Despite extensive scientific evidence and the known benefits of exercise among public health professionals, a Charter was needed to press for physical activity to be a higher priority on the agendas of governments and international agencies. Dr. Gauvin said the promotion of physical activity among populations has “lots of evidence, many policy reports, but little commitment” on the part of decision makers at the national, regional, and local levels.
The Charter is available in English, French, and Spanish and is soon to be translated to German. Delegates at the conference were asked to circulate the Charter to colleagues and to meet with decision makers to discuss how the Charter’s principles could be embedded in national plans and policy action on physical activity.
The Charter is designed to be not just about health, but instead emphasizes how physical activity improves social connectedness and quality of life, provides economic benefits by reducing health care costs and improving productivity, and contributes to environmental sustainability by promoting active, non-automobile modes of travel.
The Congress attracted 1200 delegates from 47 countries and opened with a keynote speech by George Davey Smith.