In collaboration with the Puerto Rican Departments of Education, Health, and Sports and Recreation as well as the Puerto Rican Football Association (FPF), FIFA has started implementing its landmark public health initiative, the ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ programme, on the Caribbean island. The first four-day instructors’ course has just been completed and in September 2015, the programme will commence in 16 primary schools from different areas of Puerto Rico, reaching out to more than five hundred 11-12 year-old children.

“We are very excited to launch our health initiative in Puerto Rico, where we can count on the support from the football association and the government. We all share the view that football can play an integral and important role in teaching children healthy standards, regardless of country or conditions,” said FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak.

“The first phase of the programme in Puerto Rico has been a resounding success. After seeing the experience of all participants – 32 enthusiastic teachers, FIFA’s excellent instructors, the FPF staff and the government representatives – I am very hopeful and excited about the final results,” said FPF President Eric Labrador.

“The government of Puerto Rico fully supports the excellent ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ programme and we will help to implement it in every school in Puerto Rico,” said Hon. Ramon Orta, Secretary of Sports and Recreation of the government of Puerto Rico.

After the completion of the pilot phase in the 16 selected schools, FIFA will assess the results and then decide with the FPF and the various government departments on the long-term strategy and nationwide implementation for integrating the ‘FIFA 11 for Health’ programme into the primary school curriculum.

‘FIFA 11 for Health’ is a football-based health education programme that teaches children how to live a healthy life and avoid major health threats such as HIV, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To make it more appealing to the younger generation, each health message is promoted by a prominent football player such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Neymar, Falcao and Marta.

Five years after its launch in South Africa, the programme has been successfully implemented in 20 countries around the world. Studies published in well-respected scientific journals have proven that the children’s health awareness had increased significantly. The programme is continuously being developed and adapted to the needs of the specific country, taking into consideration the social economic environment and the risk factors for disease. FIFA intends to introduce the '11 for Health' programme to 100 of its member associations by 2019.