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Tackling chronic disease through increased physical activity in the Arab World and the Middle East: challenge and opportunity
  1. Fiona Bull1,
  2. Jiri Dvorak2
  1. 1Centre for Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, UWA, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2Fédération Internationale de Football Association, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Professor Fiona Bull, School of Population health, 10 Stirling Highway, Nedlands, UWA, Perth 6009, Western Australia, Australia; fiona.bull{at}uwa.edu.au

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Reflections on the International Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the Arab World and the Middle East held in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 10–12 September, 2012.

The Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation's East Mediterranean Regional (EMR) Office and FIFA, organised an International Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the Arab World and the Middle East as part of the Regions follow-up to the United Nations (UN) Political Declaration on the prevention of NCDs.i Participants included international scientific experts, representatives from Ministries of health of all Arab countries as well as non-health sectors of government, representatives from UN funds, programmes and agencies and other key international and regional organisations and stakeholders from the civil society.

Attended by over 300 delegates, the 3 days included plenary presentations on the burden of NCDs globally and in the region, and a specific focus on the key common risk factors. There was a strong focus throughout the meeting on addressing the causes and identifying tangible actions. Plenary sessions and separate Round Table Forums were held to discuss how to scale up necessary actions required to address tobacco control, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

Why focus on the Eastern Mediterranean Region?

The Eastern Mediterranean Region is particularly interesting in terms of both health gains as well as projected burden of NCDs. Reports from the WHO indicate that life expectancy in the Middle East has increased from 51 years in 1970 to almost 70 today representing the greatest gain of any region in the world. In the same period of time, infant death rates have plummeted. These are surely good signs of public health success and economic developments. However, in conjunction with this demographic transition, EMR has experienced an epidemiological transition marked by a sharp rise …

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