FIFA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Sports, Education and Health and the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) has started implementing its landmark public health initiative “FIFA 11 for Health” in Brazil. A pilot project has just been launched in Curitiba and the objective is then to bring the program to the 12 Host Cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™.

“FIFA 11 for Health” is a football-based health education programme designed for children aged 11-12 years. The project will be implemented in 15 schools in Curitiba. The first phase of the programme – an instructors’ course – has already been completed under the leadership of Dr Astrid Junge, PhD, and teachers will then bring 11 for Health to their respective schools to complete the programme before Christmas.

The goal is to encourage physical activity and promote healthy habits amongst children, with the eventual aim of preventing or minimising the risk of them suffering from ill health. Eleven 90-minute sessions will be held at each school, all divided into two 45-minute halves just like a football match. In the first half, called “Play Football”, the children will be taught specific footballing skills. In the second half, called “Play Fair”, the focus will be on health education and helping the children to develop healthy habits.

“Initial studies carried out by the FIFA Medical and Research Centre (F-MARC) in African countries have shown that the project significantly increased children’s’ knowledge regarding healthy habits, while it can also be implemented in a variety of ways, depending on the situation in each country,” explains FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak.

The project was first put into use during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The program was subsequently extended to other nations on the same continent – including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia and Ghana – and then expanded to other continents, reaching a total of 19 countries. To make it more engaging for the younger generations, a number of top football players, including Neymar, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marta have adopted one of the 11 health messages.

FIFA’s “11 for Health” is also based around 11 messages specifically involved to create a direct line of communication with its target audience.