FIFA’s Football for Health initiative, which aims to improve knowledge of health issues among children and encourage them to engage in physical activity, is continuing to make progress in Mexico thanks to the '11 for Health' programme.
With a view to attracting more government support for the programme, FIFA Chief Medical Officer Dr Jiri Dvorak met with the Mexican Secretary of State for Health Dr Mercedes Juan Lopez on Thursday.
Held at the Mexican Department of Health’s offices in Mexico City, the meeting was also attended by Rodrigo Reina, the head of the National Department of Health’s Social Liaison and Participation Supervisory Unit; Cuauhtemoc Valdez, Chief Officer of the Executive Presidency of the Mexican Health Foundation; the consultant Armando Barriguete; Fernando Cerrilla, the Secretary General of the Mexican Football Association (FMF); and Enrique Bonilla, the Executive Director of Mexico’s Liga MX/Ascenso MX.
Dr Dvorak began by setting out the achievements of the '11 for Health' programme, which harnesses football as a tool for prevention and education, and also presented the results of the pilot programmes conducted in Mexico and other countries around the world.
The programme aims to enhance the health and well-being of young children by drawing on the tremendous potential football has for encouraging youngsters to lead a healthier life and avoid problems such as obesity.
The success of the pilot phases in South Africa (2009), Zimbabwe (2010), Mauritius (2010) and Mexico (2011) has shown that simple messages expressed through a series of football skills, such as defending, heading, shooting and dribbling, can raise awareness among children and even encourage them to change their health-related habits.
“The power football exerts away from the pitch is plain to see, but government support is essential if we are to achieve the programme’s objectives,” said Dvorak.
In response Dr Juan expressed her interest in the programme: “We support this initiative, and any such actions we can engage in are important. We have a very serious health problem in our country, one that has only been getting worse since 2006. It is important that the Health Department opens the door to initiatives that help reduce obesity and diabetes rates and encourage boys and girls to play sport and to eat healthily. In a country that loves its football as much as Mexico, what better than to take advantage of an opportunity like this?”
Thanking the government for its collaboration, Fernando Cerilla said: “Health is a very important issue for FIFA and the Mexican FA, which is why we have already launched campaigns with the Liga MX.”
Enrique Bonilla explained those campaigns in more detail: “The oldest of them is El Balón Rosa (The Pink Ball), in support of the fight against breast cancer and which raises awareness of the disease among fans and women attending games. Last year we also created an orange ball as part of the Mídete (Weigh Yourself) campaign, which promotes a healthy lifestyle.”
He added: “By supporting health campaigns, Mexican football is looking to give back to society a little part of all that society has given to it.”