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“Healthier Together” – faster, please!

By Jacob Schouenborg, Secretary General

ISCA welcomes the EU “Healthier Together” NCD initiative, which aims to reduce the burden of major NCDs and improve the health and well-being of European citizens. The 6-year initiative addresses specific diseases (cardiovascular, chronic respiratory, diabetes, and mental health) as well as a cross-cutting strand on health determinants. Naturally, ISCA has a strong interest in the health determinants strand, knowing how physical activity and therefore grassroots sport have a major contribution to make to prevent (and manage) NCDs.

On 22 June, the Commission then published its Guidance document as a result of a consultation and co-creation process (to which ISCA also contributed). This is a very welcome next step, with a good overview and possibilities for engagement, and the very inclusive process of engaging stakeholders in the preparation of the document is commendable.

It is also encouraging that no less than 20% of the EU4Health programme budget has been allocated to prevention – this is significantly better than the EU member state average of 3%.

However, it is also evident that the guidance document is indeed just that – guidance (mostly to member states). The Commission has already taken (and listed in the guidance document) several good initiatives, provided funding programmes, and pushed for more attention to NCDs. But in ISCA, we believe that a more coordinated, and strategic approach is needed from the EU side. Guidance will only do so much. Action is needed, and not just on the members state level.

This is also why we at ISCA are doing our part: on 27 June, we staged a policy- and coalition-building event in the European Parliament. The event launched a Call to action for a European action plan for prevention of non-communicable diseases and healthy lifestyle promotion. The key word here is action, and the EU has shown that it is possible to be more action-oriented, for instance with Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan which saw significant political attention, funding – and actions. Together with our partners, we have now opened up the possibility for other stakeholders to sign our call to action, to engage even further stakeholders from different sectors in the collaboration.

Once the sign-up process ends in September, we will invite the stakeholders to conversations on what more we will do together to contribute to the healthy lifestyle and disease prevention agenda.

On the ISCA side, we are of course advocating for more attention to the benefits of physical activity in the EU NCD prevention area - the EU NCD Guidance document was certainly not overrepresenting physical activity policies and opportunities! But more importantly, we are here to “walk the talk” and engage with other sectors to make grassroots sport contribute even more to citizens’ health and well-being. We are already engaged in projects and proposals for refugees, on mental health, physical literacy, the NowWeMOVE campaign and our Move For Fun programme. And we are ramping up our work in the health space, in 2022 also delivering databases, online courses, master classes etc, as a recipient of an operating grant from the EU4Health programme.

In short, we are working to do our part. But if we want to truly be “Healthier together” – we need more strategic action in the EU, and faster, please!

Posted on 01/07/2022 by Jacob Schouenborg, Secretary General


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