International · Law · International norms

Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

Objectives:

To provide guidance for the development of an enabling environment for sustainable actions at individual, community, national and global levels that, when taken together, will lead to reduced disease and death rates related to unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

Scope:

The Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health was adopted in May 2004 by the World Health Assembly (Resolution WHA57.17) in response to growing concern about the rise of non-communicable diseases. The World Health Report 2002 found that deaths from non-communicable diseases accounted for 60% of global deaths, and that the majority of these took place in developing countries.

The Strategy focuses on two major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases: diet and physical activity. It recommends that Goverments take action by adopting effective legislation, providing adequate infrastructure and funding, and adopting national strategies for diet and physical activity as well as national dietary and physical activity guidelines (para 39).

Although this was the first comprehensive WHO strategy of this kind, and the evidence was much less developed than it is today, many of the measures covered by FULL were already recommended in this document. Specifically, it is recommended that Governments:

  • provide “accurate and balanced information” to consumers, including by having education, communication, and public awareness programs on the link between diets, physical activity and health (para 40(1));
  • “work with consumer groups and the private sector (including advertising) to develop appropriate multisectoral approaches to deal with the marketing of food to children, and to deal with such issues as sponsorship, promotion and advertising” (para 40(3));
  • require key nutritional information in food labels, as proposed in the Codex Guidelines on Nutrition Labelling (para 40(4));
  • ensure that positive health claims “must not mislead the public about nutritional benefits or risks” (para 40(5));
  • “consider additional measures to encourage the reduction of the salt content of processed foods, the use of hydrogenated oils, and the sugar content of beverages and snacks” (para 41(1));
  • “consider” fiscal policies “that facilitate the adoption of healthy diets” such as taxes and subsidies (para 41(2));
  • “adopt policies that support healthy diets at school and limit the availability of products high in salt, sugar and fats” (para 43));