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IOC, WHO and PATH join forces to strengthen the role of community sport in promoting healthy lives

November 18 2023 - News Release News Editorial

A new collaboration between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international health non-governmental organisation PATH will increase access to health-enhancing community sport activities for over one million people across five countries by 2025. This is part of the overall technical cooperation agreement between the IOC and the World Health Organization (WHO).

IOC, WHO and PATH join forces to strengthen the role of community sport in promoting healthy lives

The IOC, through its Olympism365 programme, together with WHO and PATH will support the delivery of demonstrative community sport projects through national collectives of health and sport stakeholders. Projects will be developed in several countries across the world, beginning in Vietnam to build a proof of concept for the global “Community Sport and Health Cooperation Initiative”, with the goal of expanding this to four additional countries.

The initiative was launched in Vietnam, convening stakeholders from both the sports and health sectors from 6 to 10 November in Hanoi.

The role of community sport in reducing physical inactivity and promoting healthy lives

This new global initiative forms part of the technical cooperation project between the IOC and WHO, aimed at strengthening the contribution of sport and physical activity to building healthy and active communities.

Global efforts to increase physical activity have been insufficient, despite its significant role in preventing noncommunicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. There is therefore an urgent need to strengthen the support given to countries and communities to achieve the global physical activity targets established by WHO.  The cooperation between the IOC, WHO and PATH will support the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030, which sets out key policy actions applicable to all countries to promote physical activity and reduce the global prevalence of physical inactivity by 15 per cent by 2030.

“Community sport has significant potential to promote physical activity and wider health benefits, particularly if interventions are intentionally geared toward the achievement of such outcomes. The new collaboration will generate valuable insight and evidence on scaling and sustaining  community-based sport initiatives across different continents, public policy and the sport and health ecosystems,” said Ollie Dudfield, Associate Director of the IOC’s Olympism365 Programme.

“Worldwide, one in four adults and three in four adolescents do not meet the global recommendations for physical activity. At the same time, the global burden of noncommunicable diseases continues to grow and place stress on health systems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” said Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the WHO’s Physical Activity Unit. “Promoting community-based sport is one of the key ways we can increase physical activity and improve health.”

PATH will serve as the delivery lead for the Community Sport and Health Cooperation Initiative, which will focus on the role of community sport in promoting healthy lives and achieving the WHO target of a 15 per cent relative reduction in the global prevalence of physical inactivity*.*

Connecting health and sport stakeholders and building capacity

Through the Initiative’s efforts to increase access to and participation in community sport, it is envisaged that over 2,000 healthcare workers, physical educators, coaches and youth leaders across five countries will benefit from capacity building to ensure the delivery of safe, inclusive and sustainable projects. A global group of experts and local collectives composed of government, civil society and community stakeholders from the health and sport sectors will co-design and support the implementation of projects, together with policy advocacy efforts to address barriers to physical activity and sport.

These efforts build on the expertise, lessons learned and results generated through existing PATH initiatives to address noncommunicable diseases, including the Fit for Future project in Vietnam. The project provides the first-ever educational and behaviour-change programme on noncommunicable disease prevention for Vietnamese young people and their teachers. Since the project’s launch in December 2022 more than 10,000 students have been educated on the benefits of physical activity. More than 200 teachers and administrators at provincial and district level have also been trained to use the education app and training manual supporting students to be more physically active.

“PATH is excited to partner with the IOC and WHO on this important initiative to reduce physical inactivity. As one of the key risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, strengthening access to community sport can have a powerful effect on overall health and well-being,” said Helen McGuire, PATH’s Global Noncommunicable Diseases Programme Leader.

About Olympism365

Olympism365 is the IOC’s approach to strengthening the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which it achieves by collaborating with a range of stakeholders from both within and outside the Olympic Movement. The themes and priority areas for Olympism365 reflect the positive role that sport and Olympism can play in society for the SDGs by contributing to create healthier and more active communities, more equitable, safer and inclusive communities, peacebuilding, and education and livelihoods.

The IOC’s collaboration with PATH is contributing to the Sport, Health and Active Communities portfolio of Olympism365, which focuses on increasing people’s access to safe, inclusive and health-promoting sports participation opportunities.

About the World Health Organization (WHO)

The WHO Physical Activity unit works to enhance people’s wellbeing and reduce their health risks associated with physical inactivity. The recent Global Status Report on physical activity shows that countries need to accelerate the implementation of policies to increase physical activity by 15 per cent by 2030.

About PATH

PATH is a global non-profit dedicated to achieving health equity. With more than 40 years of experience in forging multisector partnerships, and with expertise in science, economics, technology, advocacy and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales up innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing health challenges.

Images: @Patch

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