Healthy Stadia hosted a side event at the World Health Organisation International Healthy Cities Conference, held in Belfast between 1-4 October 2018, discussing the role that sport and sports stadia can play in improving public health outcomes and how our network can link in with the wider Healthy Cities movement.
WHO Healthy Cities is a global movement working to put health high on the social, economic and political agenda of city governments. For 30 years the WHO European Healthy Cities Network has brought together some 100 flagship cities and approximately 30 national networks.
Together the flagship cities and national networks cover some 1400 municipalities. Their shared goal is to engage local governments in political commitment, institutional change, capacity-building, partnership-based planning and innovation.
WHO Healthy Cities is one of the best-known examples of a settings-based approach to public health and health promotion – otherwise known as ‘Healthy Settings’ approach. Other Healthy Settings approaches include Healthy Schools, Healthy Hospitals and even Healthy Prisons.
The Healthy Stadia side event was kindly hosted by the Irish Football Association at their national football stadium – Windsor Park.
Our Executive Director, Dr Matthew Philpott, provided delegates with a brief overview of Healthy Stadia and the role that sport and sports stadia can play in the WHO Healthy Cities movement.
By considering the health of visitors, fans, players, employees and the surrounding community, and leveraging the iconic status of sports stadia and the rapport between fans and their chosen team, sports organisations can have a big impact public health outcomes.
Governing Bodies of Sport were invited from across Ireland to discuss how their organisations are having a positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing of players, supporters and local communities.
The Irish Football Association discussed their new mental health programme – Ahead of the Game – which aims to equip clubs, coaches and volunteers with skills to manage and identify mental health issues, including bullying, stress and depression.
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) presented their Healthy Clubs model at WHO Healthy Cities, detailing the size, scope and success of the project in tackling a range of issues including physical inactivity, smoking cessation and food and nutrition.
The Irish FA Foundation is the charitable arm of the Irish FA and exists to further equip the association to foster and grow the sport. The Foundation has four main aims:
UEFA discussed how mega events can be leveraged in support of public health by, for example, introducing No Smoking policies in stadia, facilitating walking and cycling to football matches and improving the quality of food served to fans on a matchday.
Dr Julianne Williams provided delegates with an overview of the WHO Healthy Cities approach and the range of actions cities can take to improve public health. The WHO’s involvement in the FIFA World Cup 2018 was also discussed alongside the production of a health-promotion campaign targeting physical inactivity, tobacco use and salt consumption.