In short, the concept is a model for delivering weekly fun and low-barrier play and physical activity sessions for fixed groups of children in disadvantaged communities.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and related health challenges are on the rise world-wide, causing premature deaths, poor quality of life and excessive burdens on health care systems. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Increasing physical activity is proven to contribute to prevent and treat several NCDs and can also sustain strong immune systems. It helps prevent hypertension, overweight and obesity and can improve mental health, quality of life and well-being. Physical Activity is relevant for multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular 3, 4, 5, 10 and 11 (WHO, 2018, 2019).
The problem and the opportunity
80% of adolescents world-wide do not meet WHO’s recommendations to be physically active for one hour per day, and the situation is getting worse. Research has shown that inactive children have a much higher probability to become inactive adults (Bailey et al, 2013). Socially disadvantaged children and young people are in particular insufficiently physically active, leading to poor health and wellbeing, lower academic outcomes, and poor self-esteem. This is often exacerbated by stigma relating to ethnicity, overweight, and social status.
However, there is a “window” in young children where their minds and bodies develop physical activity preference and motivation that is likely to stay with them for life, in what is called Physical Literacy (Dudley, 2018). If children experience early, positive experiences, this will offer a sustained and effective return. Physical Literacy is growing in importance in international research, advocacy and practise, and encompasses the physical, cognitive, emotional and social domains in a holistic view of movement and physical activity across the life course (ISCA, 2020).
Many organisations are working in local communities all over the world to get children and adults alike engaged in sport and physical activity. But they often lack the concepts, support and resources to engage with the children in the most disadvantaged communities. Sometimes this is also due to the “sportive” nature of their current activities, which are not attractive to the disadvantaged kids, who may have had fewer or poor experiences in sport and physical education, and who may not feel fit or relate to the competitive nature of usual sport activities.
There is a clear need for physical activity programmes that target the most disadvantaged children with low-barrier, easy to access play, games and movement.
Our concept is building on the successful model Jump4Fun which DGI has successfully deployed in 23 municipalities in Denmark. It has been refined by taking into account learnings and advice from similar programmes across the world, through ISCAs network of members, experts and partners.
The structure of a typical session for the weekly (typically 1-1½ hour activities delivered once per week) and the theory behind the model is based on the didactic relationship. The concept is developed as a flexible model that can be adapted to the local realities, but with sufficient guidance, resources and capacity building to enable the local delivery organisation to succeed and sustain the activities.
Open events several times per year can be an add on as a tool to enhance recruitment for the weekly programme, to create community awareness, and to inspire more children and families to take up active lifestyles.