PRESS RELEASE Joining forces for a healthier world

Joining forces for a healthier world

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) partner to improve health through physical activity and sport
  • Over 80% of adolescents and 27.5% of adults were insufficiently active prior to the pandemic
  • Early data indicates a further 41% decline in physical activity, and a 200% increase in mental health issues
  • Active lifestyles contribute to intellectual, physical, social and emotional well-being
  • The agreement seeks to amplify public health messages on physical activity, create mechanisms to share knowledge and best practices, and reinforce the physical activity workforce to help communities be more active
  • The work will have a special focus on enabling youth, girls and women and inclusive access to sport and physical activity opportunities

Pictured from left to right: Pictured from left to right: Andy Rubin (WFSGI Chair of the Board), Fiona Bull (WHO Head of Physical Activity Unit), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (World Health Organization Director General), Robbert de Kock (WFSGI President & CEO), Emma P. (Mason) Zwiebler (WFSGI Vice President for Strategic and External Affairs), Ruediger Krech (WHO Director, Health Systems and Innovation)

Ittigen (Bern)/ GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – 31 March 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Geneva that provides a framework of collaboration to improve global health through increased physical activity and sports participation.


Robbert de Kock, President and CEO of the WFSGI, highlights: “The inactivity crisis is real, and it has severe consequences for society. We know that 81% of young people do not benefit from enough physical activity, and as countries develop economically levels of inactivity increase and can be as high as 70%1 . That’s why signing this MOU with WHO is a critical step to advocate for elevating levels of sport and physical activity globally so that more people can lead active and healthier lives.”

The signing took place against a backdrop of pressing developments. Latest industry data show a growing health and wellbeing trend, and yet a concerning proportion of people do not meet the WHO recommendations for physical activity. The situation for young people is particularly alarming. The high levels of physical inactivity pose significant risks to global health and also present a worrying picture for sport. The COVID-19 pandemic widened pre-existing inequalities, including access to sport. Early data indicates a 41% decline in physical activity, particularly amongst the most disadvantaged social groups and a 200% increase in mental health issues in youth2.  These statistics are extremely worrying particularly since  over 80% of adolescents and 27.5% of adults were insufficiently active prior to the pandemic. Data shows that countries are far away from meeting the goals outlined in the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA)3 of a 15% reduction in inactivity levels by 2030.


Rosalyn Kennedy, Chair of the WFSGI Physical Activity Committee (PAC), states: “Reversing the trend of physical inactivity is complex and requires behavior change across communities, cultures and geographies. We know children who are active at an early age are more likely to be active for life. Ensuring future generations are physically active is key to reversing the current trends and tackling the inactivity crisis. This is a proud moment for WFSGI, PAC and our industry partners, and we look forward to working closely with the WHO to prioritize physical activity and sport for young people.”


Following the long-standing commitment of WFSGI and its members to increase levels of physical activity and sport, the WFSGI and the WHO have partnered in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 and GAPPA’s calls for engagement across the whole of society. This is the first MOU WHO has signed with a sport industry association in relation to physical activity and sport and is a milestone to streamline efforts and embrace a multistakeholder approach to create more opportunities for more people to be more active and improve global health.


“One of WHO’s top priorities is to support countries to make an urgent paradigm shift from just treating disease to promoting health and preventing disease,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Sport and health go hand-in-hand. We are pleased to be able to draw on the expertise and creativity of our partners to increase the participation of people around the world in physical activity and grassroots sport.”

Sustainable Development Goals and Physical Activity

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. It plays a pivotal role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including with respect to SDG 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. In line with WHO’s strategic priorities of work it includes the target of a 15% relative reduction in the global prevalence of physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 2030.


Physical activity and sport are intended for all citizens, regardless of gender, race, colour of skin, age, disability, religion, ethnic, national or social background, birth, sexual orientation, disability, language, wealth and any other status, political persuasions or on any other grounds and that diversity must be promoted in and through physical activity and sport and any kind of discrimination must be rejected.


The United Nations General Assembly states in a Resolution (A/RES/70/1, adopting the SDGs), the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health,  education and social inclusion objectives.

Long History Promoting Active Lifestyles

When the WHO published the Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health in 2010, the WFSGI participated at the following WHO Global Forum in Moscow, and underlined that physical activity and access to sport have to play a more important role in the future. Subsequently, the WFSGI has attended sessions of the World Health Assembly (WHA) and World Conference of Sport Ministers (MINEPS). As a response to the urgency of the promotion of active lifestyles, the industry’s body Physical Activity Committee (PAC) was officially launched in 2013 and published a Position Paper in 2018. 

Notes to the editor:


About The World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI)

The WFSGI is the world authoritative body for the global sporting goods industry. As an independent not-for-profit association, the federation is home to over 280 direct members and 5’000 indirect members, including the largest names in the sporting goods industry. Collectively, the WFSGI membership represents 70% of the global industry turnover.


Founded in 1978, the mandate of the WFSGI is to unite and serve sports and sports-inspired leisure brands, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, national/regional federations, industry and trade associations and all sporting goods industry related businesses. As part of its mission, the WFSGI facilitate legally permissible communication and cooperation to enhance competitiveness and innovation. Its purpose is to represent and inspire the industry, to invest in innovation, promote physical activity, support free trade and do business in an ethical and sustainable way. The WFSGI seeks to positively influence the way products are manufactured, with a focus on people involved in the manufacturing and the environment.

About the WFSGI Physical Activity Committee

The Physical Activity Committee (PAC) is the global platform for the sporting goods industry that is committed to raising awareness of the benefits of physical activity and sport and increasing participation levels, especially among young children. Through its engagement with the UN agencies (World Health Organisation and UNESCO), other NGOs and International Sports Federations, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it helps drive global policy change on physical activity. As the only global platform for sporting goods companies to exchange ideas on physical activity, sharing knowledge and best practice it provides first access to information on global actions, research and policy change that affect key markets and customers.


Media contact WFSGI:, or contact Communications Manager Riccardo Parigi:

About the World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO Physical activity ( works to enhance people’s wellbeing and reduce their health risks associated with physical inactivity. The recent Global Status Report on physical activity shows that countries need to accelerate the implementation of policies to increase physical activity by 15% by 2030.


Since the 2011 when the UNGA called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to engage the private sector and other non-health actors, to address non-communicable diseases, subsequent declarations (in 2014, 2020 and post COVID-19 pandemic) have reinforced a clear mandate to establish collaborative partnerships to promote health and to reduce non-communicable disease risk factors, including through building community capacity in promoting healthy diets and lifestyles.