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Recap of HEPA expert webinar: Health-enhancing physical activity for socially disadvantaged groups

By Maria Malyshkina, ISCA

Our recent webinar – second in the three-part series on health-enhancing physical activity and enabling a #HealthyLifestyle4All – gathered experts and practitioners to try and answer the question: How do we ensure that socially disadvantaged groups are included into health-enhancing physical activities? Read the recap of the webinar and join us for the third session on 20 January 2023.

On 14 December, ISCA and the members of our newly established Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA) Expert Group explored in a free online webinar what can be done to develop targeted and tailored HEPA initiatives that take into account the cultural contexts and everyday circumstances of socially disadvantaged groups and hard-to-reach populations.

Paolo Emilio Adami, Medical Manager at World Athletic & ISCA HEPA Experts Group Member, kicked off the session with an introduction and set out the webinar’s goal: to gather the community of practitioners to share knowledge and experience and prepare to move to the next step of delivering activities. Paolo gave a quick insight into the view of ISCA HEPA Experts Group on the topic, and highlighted that it's important to keep in mind the diversity of the socially disadvantaged groupS, i.e. definitely making sure the “s” is well represented in this webinar.

Viv Holt, Head of International Operations at Youth Sport Trust International, continued the presentation addressing the challenges and solutions she observed working with socially disadvantaged young people in more than 70 countries. Some solutions are the same for different groups, Viv pointed out, and can be applied to different contexts. She identified two groups of challenges: HARD challenges – such as infrastructure, geography, economics; and SOFT – such as culture, identity, skills, experience, language. In her presentation she also explained which solutions could apply in these situations, starting from systematic change at a strategic level to solutions for coaches, volunteers and practitioners – some that are quite known but definitely worth attention. Ultimately, as summarised by Viv and Paolo, the number one piece of advice is to make people (your target groups) part of your project.

The webinar then continued in its second part, which was dedicated to the presentation of good practices designed for different target groups. Dusan Pjevac, Sport and Health Development Officer at Azur Sport Santé in France, presented “Activ’Attitude” – an initiative focusing on the access to sport and HEPA for women and girls. What started as a pilot programme in collaboration with local employment agency in 2020 grew into a 5-month programme combining physical activity with various workshops which helped reach 20 out of 24 participants the main goal of the project, i.e. find a job or professional training – also, to improve not only physical, but also mental health. Speaking about key takeaways, Dusan highlighted the need to adapt the activities to the needs of the specific groups and to co-design them with the participants.

Robert Benyhe, International Project Manager at the Hungarian Leisure Sport Association (HSLA) in Hungary, addressed the topic of access to sport for elderly with the Senior Sport Festival and the Senior Move Experience initiatives. Starting with a challenging question “Are the elderly a socially disadvantaged group?”, Robert explained how the Senior Sport Festival managed to create a “senior playground” with plenty of activities and minimised risk, as well as to create a multigenerational environment by involving the volunteers of different ages. Robert also presented the activities that HSLA implemented in order to support the senior population during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included an online video training platform “Senior Movement Experience” with special safety instructions provided by four professional senior trainers.

The last one to present their target group (hard-to-reach and disadvantaged young people from ethnically diverse and poor backgrounds) was Zakayo Wandolo, Co-Founder & Community Manager at Right2Score in Belgium, with the Right2Score initiative. After joining a call from the city of Ghent in 2019, this organisation offered multiple sports and physical activity opportunities to the local youngsters in one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods as a way of empowering them. Addressing the challenges they had to face working with this group, Zakayo highlighted that they had to specifically work on removing participation barriers, including practical, social, cultural, psychological, informational and financial; sometimes even going door-to-door to engage the at-risk youngsters.

Paolo rounded out the second part of the webinar, summarising the learnings and solutions from the good practice presenters and highlighting the main message: communication is the key. When it comes to working with these target groups, it’s helpful to be creative and not rely so much on the traditional institutional communication. Another key takeaway was that their opinions should always be taken into account when creating HEPA opportunities for the socially disadvantaged groups: “They are the experts – listen to your target groups!”.

Carole Ponchon facilitated the third part of the webinar dedicated to questions and answers from the audience on the good practices, and invited everyone to join the next webinar in ISCA HEPA & HealthyLifestyle4All series on 20 January 2023: How to muscle up your game and help tackle the n1 epidemic in the world? (or HEPA for NCD prevention).

If you’re interested in the topic of mental health and wellbeing, keep an eye on and sign up to our newsletter for more information. This will also be the topic of the first module of the soon to be launched ISCA HEPA online course. If you have any questions or would like more information about the webinars, feel free to contact Carole Ponchon.

Coming up next in 2023

20 January 2023 HEPA for noncommunicable diseases (or NCD) prevention

Registration open now!

Posted on 19/12/2022 by Maria Malyshkina, ISCA


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