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World Active Forum launches to represent fitness industry as essential to health on global stage

The World Active Forum (WAF) will advocate for the physical activity sector worldwide
The global forum has been created by a group of global representative bodies and stakeholders
Barrie Elvish, CEO of AUSactive and WAF co-founder, has been elected as first chair
The next meeting is 16 August and will be attended by Dr Fiona Bull, head of the World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Unit
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The World Active Forum (WAF) – a new network of national fitness associations and organisations from all over the world – has officially launched.

WAF is intended to unify the voice of the health and fitness industry and represent it globally, so the sector boosts its visibility – politically, socially and economically – as an essential service when it comes to public health and wellbeing.

The forum has been founded by a group of global stakeholders, including Europe Active’s CEO Andreas Paulsen, the Europe Active board and team, stakeholder advisory boards, European national associations and partners around the world. Barrie Elvish, CEO of AUSactive and WAF co-founder, has been elected as the first chair.

The secretariat function will be performed by Europe Active. The members of WAF agreed on the principle that the chair and secretariat functions of the WAF will rotate between its members on an annual basis.

In terms of European inclusion, there are 29 European national associations from the fitness and physical activity sector so far supporting WAF. At the last WAF meeting in June, members decided on the forum’s slogan and public mission of “more people, more active, more often”.

A statement released by the WAF reads: “The pandemic not only negatively impacted people’s health around the globe, but significantly disrupted our ways of living. World leaders had to strengthen collaboration in order to overcome the crisis and limit the significant human, economic, social and political costs.

“In this context, the fitness and physical activity sector mobilised itself and agreed to enhance collaboration between its representative associations worldwide, to become a generally recognised societal solution when it comes to public health and wellbeing.

“In light of the above, presidents and CEOs from national and regional fitness industry associations from all continents decided to form the World Active Forum (WAF) as their formalised global meeting place and future collective representative body.”

Earlier this year in an exclusive interview with HCM, Andreas Paulsen hinted at the future formation of the WAF. He explained how the pandemic was bringing trade associations closer together, which led him to consider how this unprecedented co-operation and collaboration could be formally leveraged to benefit the industry worldwide.

“There’s now an informal network of associations around the world and I believe we have a unique opportunity to formalise that this year, turning it into a federation of associations that speaks with one voice globally,” said Paulsen.

“If this happens, it should be a democratic body, not a semi-commercial business. It should be completely transparent and accountable – a forum of peers sitting around a table representing their respective continents and regions.”

He also spoke about his ambitions for Europe Active in the context of WAF. “My ambitions for Europe Active are to improve the image of our sector, make sure we become a public health solution in the eyes of the majority of our societies and represent the European sector in the best way possible at the global table, including helping like-minded partners across the world,” he said.

“So, for me, a global federation represents a wonderful opportunity to help others – up-and-coming African associations, for example – I’d love to see a formal system for sharing resources and best practice.

“It would also allow us to pool resources to achieve far greater impact: funding global, rather than regional reports in collaboration with university partners around the world, for example, and creating much stronger campaigns for our sector.”

The WAF has advised that the third meeting is planned for 16 August and will be attended by Dr Fiona Bull, head of the World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Unit. She will “share her perspective on the role of the fitness and physical activity sector as part of the solution to common public health challenges and about the need for global collaboration in that regard”.

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