On Friday 1 July, FIFA, in cooperation with the National Commission of the Social Health Protection System and the Mexican Football Association (FMF), launched the ’11 for Health’ education programme at the Ministry of Health in Mexico City.

The event was attended by Prof Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC), Dr Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Mexican Minister of Health, Justino Compean, CONCACAF Vice-President and FMF President, Decio de Maria, FMF General Secretary, and Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg, National Commissioner of the Social Health Protection System.

Commenting on the fundamentals of the programme, Prof Dvorak said: “FIFA has embarked on yet another path to use football as a direct tool to improve the life of young people. This can only be achieved with the support of governments. With the cooperation of the Ministry and the National Commission of Social Health Protection System here in Mexico, we will set the ball rolling for the young Mexican generation.”

‘11 for Health’ will complement two other existing Mexican government campaigns, ‘5 pasos por tu salud’ (‘Five Steps for your Health’) and ‘Midete, cuida tu peso’ (‘Measure Yourself, Watch Your Weight’). Its underlying aim is to harness the full potential of football to promote healthier lifestyles. “Launching this initiative as part of the FIFA U-17 World Cup is our way of contributing, and is in keeping with the legacy that we would like this competition to leave,” confirmed Compean.

Spreading the word
Consequently, Mexico has become the first non-African country to launch the campaign. Next in line are Colombia, where the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup 2011 will be staged, and Brazil, host of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. A key aspect of the programme has been the use of football superstars to deliver educational messages, such as Mexico’s Carlos Vela and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

The programme’s pilot study showed that simple health messages, when combined with different elements of football play, such as defending, heading, shooting and attacking, were capable of educating young people and improving some of their lifestyle choices. One of the most important messages relates to injury prevention, for which a simple warm-up routine – shown to reduce injury rates by up to 30 per cent – has been developed.

Underlining the boost that this will provide to the encouragement of healthier habits in Mexico, Dr Villalobos concluded: “Performing physical activities such as football is essential for building a healthy population. This programme is an effective, feasible and low-cost tool for improving the health of our young people, who represent our future, after all.”