Next government must not shy away from prioritising sport

by Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport

Jersey Sport are undertaking a major piece of sports research designed to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of sports clubs and organisations, both now and for the future. Sport is an incredible island resource that provides physical, emotional and financial value to individuals, families, communities and the island’s economy, particularly with regards to long term health and social care. This research will assist us in our continued delivery and support of sport and physical activities in the island on behalf of the Government of Jersey, in accordance with the Inspiring an Active Jersey and Inspiring Active Places strategies.

We will continue our work with government, ensuring that the new ministers elected this summer understand the significance and impact of sport and its benefits to islanders and future generations. It’s imperative that we work together to create policies and practices that are forward-thinking, inclusive and based on robust research.

The Inspiring an Active Jersey Strategy lays the foundations to deliver a 10% increase in Islanders’ physical activity levels by 2030. The Government should focus on prioritising investment in supporting the structure and delivery of sport and physical activity, whilst also ensuring that physical activity is a key component in the delivery of the reform of health and social care and education.

Now is the time to prioritise health improvement and adopt a preventative approach to support the Island’s growing and ageing population and commit to addressing the inequality of access to sport and physical activity.

It is essential that we adopt specific strategies to ensure sport becomes stronger, more accessible and an integral part of health and education reforms.

According to recent surveys, a large percentage of Jersey’s adults and children do not meet the WHO’s targets for weekly physical activity. These low activity levels are magnified amongst low socio-economic groups, females, those with a disability or life-limiting condition and in the Portuguese/Madeiran community and other European communities.

Adults living in social housing are 50% less likely to play sport and 19% less likely to be active than those who own their own home or are a private tenant. Amongst children, there is a huge reduction of 35% in sports participation after Year 8.

Supporting teenagers and young people to be more physically active and remain active into adulthood must be made a priority for the next term of government ministers.

Being active for at least 150 minutes per week on a regular basis can substantially lower the risk of developing major diseases and conditions such as diabetes, clinical depression and dementia. This results in substantial benefits for the health care system and improves general health resulting in fewer GP visits and less sick leave. Figures calculated through research in England suggests that a £1 investment in sport generates a £4 return in terms of health and wellbeing, stronger communities and value to the economy.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living has no doubt created a huge increase in mental health problems and emotional stress for individuals and families. 67% of adults say they would like to do more sport and physical activity and would feel more encouraged to do so if they had more free time, more disposable income and someone to exercise with. Our next government need to make it their priority to understand and address the ever-growing issues of inequality and barriers to exercise.

Playing sport and being active is calculated as having an annual worth to individuals of £1274 through improvements in physical and mental wellbeing. In Jersey, we have hundreds of volunteers who regularly support sport, charity events and physical activity. This is hugely valuable to our community and our economy through their ‘in kind’ time contribution as well as supporting their own levels of happiness and self-worth.

With the value of sport and regular physical activity being so high, it’s imperative that government candidates and elected ministers are committed to substantial and continual improvements across all areas of health and social care, education and sport. Without this integration of sport into policies and government spending, we will not be able to achieve our Inspiring an Active Jersey Strategy target of ‘becoming a healthier, more productive and fairer society by being one of the most physically active populations in the world’.

To take part in the island’s Sports Survey, please visit: before 27 May 2022.

This article was originally published in the Jersey Evening Post on 14 May 2022.



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