Grant Jarvie
Professor and Director, University of Edinburgh, Academy of Sport

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11/12/2016 par Grant Jarvie

Sport for a Healthier World

Two premises guide the work of the Academy: that sport has a part to play in addressing the challenges that face humanity in the 21st century and to be seen to be addressing such challenges.

Born out of a desire to serve communities locally and globally The Academy of Sport builds upon a remarkable heritage of involvement with sport dating back to at least 1591.

Sport for development and peace has the potential to contribute to many of the sustainable development goals (SDG’S) and in this piece we offer an overview of the contribution sport is making to just one of these goals (1).

We are doing this in support of the Universal Health Coverage Campaign on December 12th 2016.

Sport for a Healthier World

The University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport is not alone and recognises the many international and local interventions that continue to carry health messages, evidence, and advocate for sport based approaches to support The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’S).

Sport can enable and be a valuable asset to many of the 2030 SDG’S.

The opportunity to reinforce the case for sport where sport is striving to enable healthier worlds should be recognised more by, for example, higher staffing levels in multi-national cross-cutting agencies to support work on the ground with well trained local people who understand what sport for health can deliver and know how to deliver it.

Sport can make an efficient and cost effective contribution to SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.

What is Sport?

We encourage those working in different health enabling capacities to adopt, advance and work with an inclusive definition of sport such as that used by the United Nations and promoted by the United Nations Task Force of Sport for Development and Peace.

Sport: All forms of physical activity and physical culture that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being, social interaction, such as play, recreation, organised or competitive sport and indigenous sport and games.

Why use Sport?

  • Maximise the health and well being benefits of sport and physical activity participation
  • Address the economic impact of physical inactivity
  • Harness the potential to deliver health education and health benefits through sport
  • Enable sports contribution to cross-cutting initiatives.

How to use Sport?

  • Embed in preventative health and education policy and implementation mechanisms
  • Prioritise inclusive sport and physical activity provision
  • Undertake population level planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Sport Contribution

Sport can make a substantial contribution to:

Target 3.4 – By 2030 reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicative diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well being.

Sport can make a measured contribution to

Target 3.3- By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water borne diseases and other communicative diseases.

Target 3.5 By 2030, the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and harmful use of alcohol.

Target 3.7 By 2030 ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.

Health Outcomes from Sport

  • Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast and colon cancer
  • Weight control and prevention of obesity
  • Improved mental health and well being
  • Positive impact on child and adolescent development
  • Health messaging
  • Social cohesion
  • Potential team building and effective, compassionate leadership.


There is a social gradient in health that runs across the full range of the world socio-economic spectrum. Complex health inequalities are seen in low, middle and high income countries. The social gradient in health means that health inequities affect everyone. The result of the unequal distribution of life chances is that health is unequally distributed – but the question of what can be done about such conditions should not exclude the contribution that sport can make to a healthier world.

For some the response to the existence of The Health Gap is the simple message do something, do more and do it better. We know solutions and we have evidence but the organisation of hope in low, middle and high income countries needs to be accelerated. The plea for a new politics of compassion through using cost-effective popular social tools such as that contained in the broad definition of sport provided above should not be ignored.

Sport for a healthier world challenges us to reactivate the audacious spirit of activism, advocacy and health outcomes through sport for development and peace. Collectively we can never do enough but together we can certainly do something, do more and do it better.



  1. Commonwealth Secretariat (2015)- Sport for Development and Peace and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. London.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Peace and Sport Watch are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Peace and Sport.

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