Background: Public policy is increasingly recognized as an important component of physical activity promotion. This paper reports on the current status of physical activity policy development and implementation in four European countries based on the Health-Enhancing Physical Activity Policy Audit Tool (HEPA PAT) developed by WHO. It compares the findings to previous studies and discusses the general utility of this tool and its unique features in relation to other instruments. Methods: The study was conducted as part of the Policy Evaluation Network (www.jpi-pen.eu) in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland. Data collection built upon information obtained via the EU Physical Activity Monitoring Framework survey, additional desk research and expert opinion. Data analysis employed Howlett’s policy cycle framework to map and compare national physical activity policies in the four countries. Results: In all countries under study, policy agenda-setting is influenced by prevalence data from national health monitoring systems, and the sport and/or health sector takes the lead in policy formulation. Key policy documents were located mainly in the health sector but also in sport, urban design and transport. Physical activity programmes implemented to meet policy objectives usually cover a broad range of target groups, but currently only a small selection of major policies are evaluated for effectiveness. National experts made several suggestions to other countries wishing to establish physical activity policies, e.g. regarding cross-sectoral support and coordination, comprehensive national action plans, and monitoring/surveillance. Conclusions: This study provides a detailed overview of physical activity policies in the four countries. Results show that national governments are already very active in the field but that there is room for improvement in a number of areas, e.g. regarding the contribution of sectors beyond sport and health. Using the HEPA PAT simultaneously in four countries also showed that procedures and timelines have to be adapted to national contexts. Overall, the instrument can make an important contribution to understanding and informing physical activity policy, especially when used as an add-on to regular monitoring tools like the EU HEPA Monitoring Framework.
- HEPA PAT
- Physical activity