'11 for Health' takes centre-stage in Colombia

FIFA’s '11 for Health' programme has had a central role at Colombia’s first ever ‘Healthy lifestyle Symposium’, titled 'Remembering the commitment to Health' and held on 12 and 13 September 2013.

The two-day event marked the start of the country’s ‘Healthy-lifestyle Week’, a period during which people across the Cafetero nation are taking part in a range of activities with one objective in mind. This objective is to promote a healthy lifestyle, with a view to creating favourable conditions in family, educational and working environments that lead to an improvement in public health. A central day in this mission is 24 September, a date which has since 2009 been declared the 'National Day in the Fight against Obesity and Excess Weight'.

The Symposium, organised in Bogota by Colombia’s Ministry for Health and Social Protection, has brought together experts from all over the world to spend two days sharing international advances on promoting healthy habits among the general public.

Over 200 people attended the event, with speakers including FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Jiri Dvorak, who got the ball rolling at the academic event through two conferences on the '11 for Health' programme developed by the governing body of world football. The programme, which aims to use football to promote healthy habits among children, was introduced in Colombia as part of the legacy of the FIFA U-20 World Cup held there in 2011.

In his opening talk, Professor Dvorak spoke about how '11 for Health' has expanded internationally, having begun in Africa and been subsequently rolled out in Latin America. Mexico and Colombia were the first of the latter countries in which the programme was implemented, while it is also starting to be introduced in Brazil.

A programme for now and the future
In his second conference, FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer went on to outline the key areas of the strategy set out for '11 for Health' in Colombia where, following an initial pilot-study phase during which the programme was put into practice in 11 schools in the cities of Bogota, Cali, Cartagena and Manizales, it has begun to be implemented at national level over the course of 2013.

By the end of this year, it is hoped that more than 20,000 children between the ages of ten and 12 will have benefitted from this educational programme, as well as training close to 500 teachers and football coaches. This is so the latter group can continue to develop and carry out these policies, which are designed to educate about and prevent illness and tackle the problems relating to excess weight, obesity and drug-dependence.

The President of the Colombian Football Association (FCF), Luis Bedoya Giraldo, also took part in this inaugural symposium. In doing so he explained the hopes and expectations for the implementation of '11 for Health' in the country and the involvement of private industry in the process.

The objective and main challenge for the years to come is, driven by FIFA, to make Colombia a benchmark for this programme in Latin America and have a major impact on the nation’s health. Between 2014 and 2015 the hope is that up to 85,000 children and young people will have benefitted from the programme.