26 Nov Health and Wellbeing Programme in Development for Football Fans in Malawi
Following the successful development of a health and wellbeing programme for European football fans, Robin Ireland, Director of Research, Healthy Stadia and PhD Candidate at the University of Glasgow travelled to Blantyre, Malawi to learn more about how the principles of EuroFIT are being applied in an African context.
Earlier this year I was invited by Dr Chris Bunn from the University of Glasgow to contribute to a new project in Malawi which would begin with a co-development workshop in Blantyre, Malawi’s centre of finance and commerce and its second largest city, in November 2018.
The project seeks to co-develop a health and wellbeing programme for men who support Malawian football teams, with a focus on preventing non-communicable diseases.
A survey conducted in 2009 demonstrated that non-communicable diseases and their risk factors are a significant public health problem in Malawi
Almost a third of individuals aged 25-64 have high blood pressure and three quarters of these individuals are unaware they have the condition. Nearly one in ten (8.9%) suffer from cardiovascular disease and one in twenty (5.1%) have diabetes.
In line with Objective 2 of the Malawi Health Sector Strategic Plan (2017-2022), the project will help to reduce social risk factors and behaviours that have a direct impact on health.
In order to achieve this objective, it is anticipated that the connection between football fans in Malawi and their favoured clubs can be harnessed in support of health. This approach has been hugely successful with the European Fans in Training or EuroFIT programme which has been delivered in England, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.
The opening workshop was held at the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) and lasted five days. The workshop was attended by eight representatives from three football clubs and several fan groups.
The workshop was also attended by Professor Kapulula, Lecturer in Sociology of Health from Chancellor College, University of Malawi and five members of the research team from the University of Glasgow and the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit.
As part of the workshop, we helped to coordinate a discussion with fans’ representatives concerning the nutrition and health content of the programme. During the workshop I also presented the work of Healthy Stadia in a European context, looking at how stadiums and sport organisations can be developed as health-promoting environments.
The health and wellbeing programme, which is now under development, is intended to last for 12 weeks and will target male supporters of two of Malawi’s most successful football teams: the Nyasa Big Bullets and the Be-Forward Wanderers.
Biomedical measures from participants will be taken before the programme begins and after the programme has concluded to measure any improvements in health during this period.
It is exciting to see this kind of initiative pursued in an African context with the hope that this pilot study is able to lead to further larger programmes. Building evidence-based programmes can be extremely challenging but can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing for individuals and communities. We hope the learning from EuroFIT can positively impact on the development of this programme for football fans in Malawi.
The project is due to be completed by June 2019 and is funded by the Scottish Funding Council through its Global Challenges Research Fund.