The third European Healthy Stadia Conference, held in Geneva, gave delegates the opportunity to hear about some of sport’s most innovative public health initiatives that are changing the lives of fans, local communities and, in particular, young people across the globe.
The Conference was held as one of 18 conferences at the two day International Sports Convention 2014 with over 2000 delegates in attendance, making the Convention the largest sports networking event in 2014. Featuring an international line up of professional sports clubs, governing bodies of sport, global health agencies and non-governmental organisations, the day-long conference emphasised the unique ability of sport to engage target groups such as sedentary men and socially disadvantaged communities.
One of the recurrent themes of the day was the importance of working in partnership to deliver changes in both policy and practice to improve public health through sport. Whether working in partnership with local authorities to improve levels of active transport to sports venues; or nutrition and mental health initiatives delivered at grass-roots level through football clubs and coaches in areas of high health inequalities in Northern Ireland, the importance of stakeholders from the sport, health and NGO sectors working together to deliver successful programmes of work was apparent.
The Conference was honoured to receive its keynote presentation from Professor Jiri Dvorak, Chief Medical Officer at FIFA and Chair of F-MARC, who gave a powerful account of the immense potential of football to address non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, referencing the FIFA ’11 for Health’ programme that has been implemented in 79 countries to date.
Professor Dvorak also discussed how FIFA has recently used to ’11 For Health’ template to create a preventative campaign in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, using the star power of players such as Xavi, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.