Transnational Strategies for the Promotion of Physical Activity and Active Aging: The World Health Organization Model of Consensus Building in International Public Health

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In this paper we focus our attention on an examination of the four-step process adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its systematic campaign to promote physically active lifestyles by older adults across the 193 WHO member states. The four steps adopted by the WHO include (1) Building Consensus Among Professionals; (2) Educating the Public and Building Consumer Demand; (3) Developing an Active Aging Public Policy Framework; and (4) Refining, Expanding, and Evolving the Model. For each of these steps we describe the processes by which the WHO sought input from a wide variety of sources in each of the six WHO regions (Africa, Americas, South-East Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific). Using this approach they helped to systematically build a transnational consensus with regard to the importance of regular physical activity as a critical component of the prevention of chronic disease and the promotion of high quality of life in the older adult population. The focus of WHO activity has gradually shifted away from advocating for increased physical activity interventions, perse, to a more nuanced approach focusing on articulating the policy requirements for the promotion of active aging across multiple determinants and risk factors. The realization that effective health promotion strategies cannot exist in isolation but rather must be consistent with and reflective of the economic, political, and cultural realities of the societies in which they are to be implemented marks an important advance in the WHO strategy in the area of physical activity promotion. The paper concludes with a brief description of recent WHO efforts to promote Global Age-Friendly Cities and to develop multisectoral strategies to reduce falls in older adult populations. Both of these initiatives underscore the important role that kinesiologists and other health professionals have in the development of, and implementation of, active aging strategies and polices. The goal of this paper is to examine the process by which research findings and other evidence gathered from a variety of sources, countries, and cultures gradually coalesce into a broad transnational consensus with respect to accepted policies and procedures in international public health. To illustrate the complex steps involved in the evolution of transnational consensus with regard to best practices and effective public policy, we will examine the role played by the WHO in building awareness and understanding with respect to the importance of regular physical activity for the promotion of health and quality of life of adults over the age of 50 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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