The final debate of the MOVE 2011 World Congress on Sport for All discussed new pathways to a healthy, active life? The discussion panel included:
- Ms. Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, USA
- Ms. Margarett Best, Minister of Health Promotion and Sport, Province of Ontario, Canada
- Ms. Despina Spanou, Principal adviser for communication and stakeholders, Directorate General for health and consumer policy?(DG Sanco), European Commission
- Ms. Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of ParticipACTION, the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada
- Ms. Lori Sloate, Partnerships and advocacy, WHO centre for health development, Japan
PLAYTHEGAME Director Jens Sejer Andersen recalled the earlier statement by Professor Stefan Szymanski mentioning that “the sport sector needs to consider that approximately 20% of the European population does simply not engage in sport, because they don’t like it.”
The panel responded that indeed sedentarism is the greatest enemy in the struggle for healthier societies. Therefore, governments as much as NGOs must strengthen their efforts in building communities and neighborhood systems that promote a healthy lifestyle choice.
Less blogging, more jogging
Dr. Nazih Eldin, Health Promotion Manager at the HSE in Ireland emphasized that we need to see a change of mind-set, whereof the physical activity choice must be the easy choice.
Kelly Murumets added that people do not understand the urgency of the matter, both with regard to health care costs and the societal externalities. “The problem of short-term decisions, driven by relatively short political mandates and budget restrictions in times of financial crisis, address only the most grave and immediate problems, whereas the need for long-term investments in disease prevention and health promotion do not catch the necessary attention.”
Ms. Spanou asserted that health promotion is everyone’s business, “therefore we need to engage in a broad stakeholder approach and political mainstreaming of the health agenda.” The approach of the European Union in this respect has materialized in the decision to have a health perspective in all policies.
Partnerships and data
The panel identified two issues to be of defining nature to the future of physical activity and health initiatives around the globe, namely partnership and data. Sharing knowledge and resources through partnerships between NGOs, public institutions, and private businesses is the single most important feature of the solution. Ms. Lori Sloate from the WHO underlined that “as resources are scarce, but the mission and ambitions are converging, we need more pooling of resources in order to make a better use of the scarce financial resources.”
Economics of prevention require data on how improved health condition will contribute to savings in the public budgets. Therefore, the sport and health sector need to provide hard fact and clear figures that demonstrate this correlation. The narrative of inspiring projects and initiatives is very important to provide focus and support innovation in the sector, whereas political decision makers will be easier to convince by underlining the economic benefits of an investment in disease prevention and health promotion. Accordingly, associations need to build capacities in evaluation and assessing the real impact of their projects. Kelly Murumets declared that “a strong set of metrics and indicators is indispensable and we need competent partners that help us furthering evidence based policies.”