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ISCA Health – our biggest agenda in 2022 (and 2023)?

By Jacob Schouenborg, ISCA Secretary General

Every grassroots sport advocate knows it: sport and physical activity is good for mental and physical health. But if we are honest about it, not too many public health professionals, nor many politicians believe us and are willing to shift their priorities and investments. In 2022, ISCA set out to change this with the biggest health-focused effort in our history.

ISCA members have done amazing health promotion work over the last 15 years, gaining experience and building the evidence base for our cost-effective solutions. In 2022, we managed to support and expand on that work through our collective international efforts, ensuring more of our members engage and that the value of physical activity is recognised among stakeholders, health professionals and political decision-makers alike. And more is to come!

This story is a preview of our latest Annual Report - published today. you can browse the report below.

European Action for a HealthyLifestyle4All
Covid-19 had meant a literal standstill in many communities and for many individuals. Movement was restricted, worsening already too low levels of physical activity. At European Parliament, no physical events were allowed due to Covid-19 until well into 2022. But when the parliament finally re-opened, ISCA was ready! 

We organised one of the first major events there on 27 June together with JOGG/Youth Health Communities and Schuttelaar & Partners. And we prepared a Call for European Action jointly with 13 other organisations, including the UNESCO Chair for Global Health and Education, European Association for the Study of Obesity, European Cyclists’ Federation, UNICEF (NL) and many more. The call to action was focused on achieving a #HealthyLifestyle4All in recognition of the fact that ISCA cannot attract cross-sector attention if we only talk about grassroots sport.

After the event, we invited other stakeholders to co-sign the call to action – and an amazing 70 organisations and entities did! With this success, we could confidently share the call and list of signatories with more than 20 MEPs, with health officials from the Commission and with the Committee of the Regions. We crowned these efforts with a personal meeting with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, who acknowledged our initiative and the overall interest in this agenda.

We also supported WHO Europe in their efforts to promote Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA) through policy dialogues at the HEPA Europe conference, and in the HEPA Europe working groups.

First sport organisation to receive an EU Health operating grant
Most importantly, we engaged our members in our health agenda-setting with a HEPA masterclass in Brussels, a HEPA online course for our network, and we provided advice and guidance through our brand new HEPA Expert Group, as well as though massive amounts of resources on our new website

And of course we wanted to extend the health focus to our NowWeMOVE campaign. So we delivered toolkits on physical activity and mental wellbeing at the workplace for No Elevators Day, the history of MOVEment Pills and exercise on prescription for MOVE Week, and promoting healthy lifestyle messages to children for European School Sport Day.

Our efforts in 2022 were supported by an operating grant in the field of health from the European Commission; it is the first time ever that a sport organisation has achieved this, and it is a testament to the growing value attributed to grassroots sport by health professionals.

We will build on the success of our health advocacy actions in 2023, including through a renewed focus on mental health through physical activity, with a starting point in the new Icehearts Europe project, which focuses on supporting socially disadvantaged children and youth.

Visit ISCA Health to discover more

Photo (top): European Commission

Posted on 31/03/2023 by Jacob Schouenborg, ISCA Secretary General


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