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NHS Health Confederation: Sport And Health In The UK

Sport is increasingly being recognised as an effective way to engage men and boys in practices that can enhance their health and wellbeing. This report from the UK National Health Service provides a useful guide to using sport as a way to reach men.

Sport And Health In The UK

 

 
If a million more people played sport each week, it would save the taxpayer £22.5 billion in health and associated costs...
 

Numerous studies have shown how being involved in sport can build health and wellbeing for boys and men and their communities. In terms of creating environments that build mateship, enhance physical activity and mental wellbeing, playing sport offers a way to bring in men and enable them to be part of something positive.

This UK report by the NHS Confederation provides a useful guide to services who wish to build partnership with sporting bodies for the purposes of engaging males in sport for good health. It is hoped that the 2012 London Olympics will create a legacy of improved participation in sports and provide long-lasting benefits to individuals and communities.

Sport As A Way Of Engaging Marginalised Men

One of the valuable aspects of sport is its ability to engage otherwise at-risk men and boys. Most males grow up with some familiarity of the environments around sports, and because of this sporting grounds and premises are welcoming and familiar, usually more so than traditional health places such as hospitals and medical centres.

Sport creates an environment that is trusted and being among friends is a way to break down isolation and social barriers so it can provide avenues to bring in health programs in a way that is welcomed and accepted by the players.

Recommendations For Services

The report offers several pieces of advice for services considering using sport to engage with men's health. These are applicable in many contexts in which services want to find things that engage men and boys through fun activity:

  • Make contact with local sporting bodies to jointly determine how much they can collaborate and in what ways they can accommodate what are often innovative but unknown programs.
  • Focus on building partnerships - identify common goals and what each partner can contribute.
  • One-off events do not tend to have much impact, so look at longer-term planning and initiatives.
  • Ensure there is clear signposting for those who need follow-up tests or support, or want further information.
  • Establish a sub-group or network of the health and wellbeing board to plan and coordinate activities.
  • Use evidence from joint strategic needs assessments to support commissioner cases for including
    sport initiatives in joint health and wellbeing strategies.
  • Evaluate and follow up all projects.

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