Health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) is an ongoing concern for all nation states and in particular for young people, who are the future adults in our society. Global physical inactivity levels remain static (Guthold et al., 2018) whereas European Statistics on Physical Activity demonstrate that European citizens do not exercise adequately (Eurobarometer Statistics on Physical Activity, 2018). Interestingly, only half of European citizens (54%) exercise regularly or at least are involved in physical activity. As a consequence, the World Health Organization (WHO, 2018) set a global goal to reduce physical inactivity by 10% by 2025 and by 15% by 2030.
The WHO in late 2018 launched the Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA) and in this document, it sets out four objectives and 20 policy actions for adoption by member states. GAPPA adopts a whole-systems approach to addressing HEPA which can be applied to a number of settings in our society, including educational settings. The GAPPA includes policy actions to achieve four fundamental objectives: a) create active societies, b) create active environments, c) create active people and d) create active systems. Importantly, WHO (2018) acknowledges that ‘increasing physical activity requires a systems-based approach – there is no single policy solution’.
In this respect, we view the school as a system and we promote a whole-school approach for the promotion of physical activity. HEPA project aims to apply the GAPPA objectives and policy actions through school and school physical education. Childhood and adolescence is the age when habits are developed and school is the context where the majority of children and adolescents can be approached. Therefore, it seems reasonable that school and school physical education could develop physical activity habits and positive beliefs towards health enhancing physical activity.
HEPA project aims to produce resource materials for school-based settings that promote the four GAPPA objectives and a whole-systems approach to addressing physical activity in schools for young people. It aims to firstly, produce a training resource for school based staff, such as teachers, head teachers, school governors, and support staff, to understand the four objectives and their specifc application and connectivity in a school setting and, secondly, through the implementation of that training resource, draw the four GAPPA objectives together in an applied way, to enable schools to adopt and promote a whole- schools/systems approach to addressing inactivity and HEPA.
In this respect, our educational material includes four modules, each one addressing each GAPPA objective:
Module 2: A module focusing on creating active societies with the aim to provide information on how to develop a positive mentality by enhancing knowledge and understanding of, and appreciation for, the multiple benefits of regular physical activity.
Module 3: A module focusing on creating active environments with the aim of addressing the need to create spaces and places that provide opportunities to all children to be physically active in their schools and communities.
Module 4: A module focusing on creating active people with the aim of providing information on the benefits of physical activity and highlight opportunities for engagement in regular physical activity.
Module 5: A module focusing on creating active systems with the aim to provide information on how to strengthen the systems necessary to implement effective and coordinated actions to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour.
Moreover, in order to complement the GAPPA activities our educational material includes two more modules, a module on the concept of a whole-school approach (Module 1) and a module on interdisciplinary teaching (Module 6). In these modules we provide information about the need to foster a whole school approach and information on how school educators from different disciplines can collaborate and promote physical activity.
Overall, our educational material envisages increasing awareness about the benefits of physical activity, helping school educators understand their role for the promotion of physical activities and providing guidelines for successfully fostering physical activity through school.