In January 2011 Dr Andrew Murray completed a 2659-mile run from John O’Groats in far North Scotland to Merzouga in the Moroccan Sahara desert, running an average of over 34 miles for 78 consecutive days. It made the Scottish doctor an instant celebrity.
The Scottish Government wanted to make Scotland a fitter and healthier nation and understood that Andrew was the right person to inspire kids to exercise more.
So the ultrarunner became the government’s physical activity champion for 6 months and launched a Health program called “Take Life On” in Edinburgh in 2012.
“As a day-to-day GP, I know that Take Life On is a fantastic investment in Scotland’s health. Getting your children active and keeping them active has huge and lasting benefits, and can be great fun,” Dr Murray said.
“Research has shown that having a low level of fitness is equivalent in risk to having diabetes, smoking, and being obese combined.”
And he added: “Being physically active improves achievement and concentration at school, and also prevents heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer in later life. It is the single best present you can give your children.”
“Just 60 minutes of physical activity per day will help your children become healthier, happier adults. I’d urge everybody to take life on today,” he said.
“Getting active, and staying active really is the best thing you can do for your health.
Each step is a step to health.”
Dr Andrew Murray,
ultrarunner, doctor, speaker and author
3 – 9 September 2018: GLOBAL WEEK FOR ACTION ON NCDs
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), mainly cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are the #1 cause of death and disability worldwide. NCDs account for 70% of all deaths and for more than three out of four years lived with a disability.
Inaction in addressing the risk factors and health system weaknesses continues to drive up the prevalence of NCDs. That’s why this first Global Week for Action on NCDs was initiated.
More than 38 million people die annually from NCDs (63% of global deaths), including 16 million people who die before the age of 70. Nearly 50% of global disability is attributed to NCDs.
Historically considered to be diseases of the rich and elderly, NCDs are now impacting four out of five people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and are expected to increase by 17% by 2025.
NCDs are a major cause of poverty and a barrier to economic and social development, driven largely by four main modifiable risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.
The scale of human suffering caused by NCDs is unacceptable, as the majority of these diseases are preventable.
Walk the talk: The Health for All Challenge
The World Health Organization (WHO) celebrated its 70th anniversary in on 20 May 2018 with a major health promotion event in Geneva, Switzerland.
WHO aims for a world free of all forms of malnutrition, where all people achieve health and wellbeing.
More than 4000 people participated in the free walk/run event, including multiple Olympic and World Champion long-distance runner and world record holder Haile Gebrselassie:
“In my opinion, being physically active is essential for good health. People do not need to be Olympians or athletes to enjoy the many benefits of being physically active. In our daily lives we should move for health in any way we can so that we can be healthier and better able to enjoy our lives.”
“I support WHO’s mission to promote healthy lives for all people, and I believe countries can do much to make it easy for their citizens to be more physically active to improve their health. This can result in so many gains for a person’s own health, as well as the growth and well-being of their communities,” Mr Gebrselassie said.
Nutrition and NCDs
Every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition. Combating malnutrition in all its forms is one of the greatest global health challenges.
Malnutrition includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related noncommunicable diseases, WHO statistics show.
Around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition. These mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries. At the same time, in these same countries, rates of childhood overweight and obesity are rising.
A 2017 study published in The Lancet shows that the rising trends in children’s and adolescents’ body-mass index (BMI) have plateaued in many high-income countries, albeit at high levels, but have accelerated in parts of Asia, with trends no longer correlated with those of adults.
Despite this rise, more children and adolescents worldwide are moderately or severely underweight than obese. However, if post-2000 trends continue, child and adolescent obesity is expected to surpass moderate and severe underweight by 2022.
Overweight and obesity result from an imbalance between energy consumed (too much) and energy expended (too little). Globally, people are consuming foods and drinks that are more energy-dense (high in sugars and fats), and engaging in less physical activity.
Diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) include cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke, and often linked with high blood pressure), certain cancers, and diabetes. Unhealthy diets and poor nutrition are among the top risk factors for these diseases globally.
People who are poor are more likely to be affected by different forms of malnutrition. Also, malnutrition increases health care costs, reduces productivity and slows economic growth, which can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and ill health.
World Cancer Research Fund International developed the NOURISHING framework to highlight where governments need to take action to promote healthy diets and reduce overweight and obesity.
The framework is accompanied by a regularly updated database (last updated 20 June 2018), providing an extensive overview of implemented government policy actions from around the world.
The value of preventing and controlling NCDs
Investing in NCD prevention and control not only improves health and saves lives, but can also improve a country’s economic productivity. It can improve workforce participation and productivity, and limit the financial burden of unexpected health costs from NCDs on individuals and families. Investment is particularly important in low- and lower-middle-income countries, where the NCD burden continues to rise, and health systems are less resilient.
Transforming the world
Since 2010, NCDs have been elevated onto national and global health and development agendas and let to a series of political commitments to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030.
But despite the many proven interventions and commitments to combat NCDs, including the landmark 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCD Prevention and Control, the 2025 global NCD targets, the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020, and integration into 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, progress has been slow and uneven globally.
It requires dramatic changes in the way countries finance the development and implementation of national NCD responses to address tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer is to get better and faster results worldwide.
We’re in it together
Community support and civil society organizations (CSOs) play an important role in providing a voice for people who are affected by NCDs. Together we can bring positive social, economic and cultural change to policies and hold governments and other service providers accountable to make sure that they fulfill their duties and deliver their promises.
The first Global Week for Action on NCDs provides everyone, everywhere the opportunity to take action. This week is your chance to contribute and do something achievable, relevant and impactful wherever you live:
ENOUGH. Our Health. Our Right. Right Now is a global opportunity to talk to each other and exchange what works well and what needs to change to ensure improvement of health and lives of all people in all places.
The Map of Impact shows where ENOUGH is action is taken around the world. Submissions of your own local news, events and resources are welcome in English, French or Spanish.
Voices of Change and Pledges will also be added to the map to demonstrate just how far and wide NCDs are impacting on people and need action for change.
Much of the NCD suffering and death is preventable, and we have long known the solutions.
Inaction in addressing the risk factors and health system weaknesses continues to drive up the prevalence of NCDs. This is unacceptable and can be changed by taking meaningful action. That’s why the ENOUGH campaign is building awareness towards the third UN High-level Meeting on NCDs: September 27, 2018.
This is the first part of a series about running and health in the GLOBAL WEEK FOR ACTION ON NCDs. To speak with Doc Andrew Murray: “GET ACTIVE today, and spread the word.”
Resources and further reading
GP runner Andrew Murray given sports education role
Scottish Government targets children in new exercise campaign
Doc Andrew Murray
book: Running Beyond Limits: The Adventures of an Ultra Marathon Runner by Andrew Murray
book: Running Your Best by Andrew Murray
How we can create a healthier, more active society where health means more than just the absence of disease – conversation with Dr Andrew Murray
Saving lives, spending less; a strategic response to noncommunicable diseases
Time to deliver; how countries can accelerate progress
NCD Stories; tell your own
Walk the Talk: The Health for All Challenge
#enoughNCDs #BeatNCDs #HealthForAll #WalkTheTalk
Also published on Medium.