World Cup

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Creating a legacy of sport for health

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is a great opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles through sport.

Unveiling of uniforms for Volunteers during the orientation event for the World Cup Qatar 2022
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18. [Reuters/Mohammed Dabbous]

With Qatar soon to take the centre stage of world sports, the World Health Organization and the Qatar Ministry of Public Health are driving efforts to help make this year’s celebration of football, the “world’s game”, a beacon for health and safety, and a launchpad for sharing lessons with major sporting events in the future.

Set to be held in Doha from November 20 to December 18, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is a unique platform for us to promote health across the world and to communicate that sport and health go together. They are intertwined and, together, they play out in a celebration of joy, wellbeing, and solidarity for billions of people around the world.

Our partnership in Sport For Health has two main objectives: first, to work with key partners to help make the 2022 FIFA World Cup – the first to be held in the Middle East – healthy and safe; and second, to capture and share lessons learned with our partners and organisers of other large sporting events.

The partnership, which is supported by FIFA and Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy as part of a drive to promote health globally through football, began last October. Since then, we have worked in close collaboration to promote physical health and wellbeing in several ways. These include promoting health and nutritional awareness during the Holy Month of Ramadan, engaging in the third edition of the “Walk the Talk: Health For All Challenge” initiative in Geneva, and raising awareness of the harms caused by smoking on World No Tobacco Day.

By focusing on physical activity, healthy diets and nutrition, tobacco control, mental health, and health security, we are working to provide guidance on how to help improve the physical and mental health of all people globally through sports.

Our goals are ambitious, and based on three key pillars: First, promoting health through strategic collaboration with governments and sporting organisations, reaching billions of people through football and other sports; second, making major sporting events safe for fans, players and staff; and third, sharing information with the public to help them make healthy lifestyle choices.

The partnership is leveraging this year’s FIFA World Cup to promote the health benefits of physical activity for all through sport by developing new tools to reach people of all ages, particularly youth. As partners, we have been busy developing science-based guidance through technical engagement to communicate the importance of physical activity.

One of the key findings is that good mental health can often be linked to regular physical activity, which includes sports or, simply walking and participating in physical activities with others. This can also help to promote a sense of inclusion and community.

Whether you are involved with high-intensity workouts or even just gardening, every effort counts towards a healthy body and mind. To further promote healthy lives, we are underscoring the importance of nutrition by demonstrating the benefits of offering healthy food choices at large sporting events.

In the same vein, at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, smoke-free stadiums and bans on tobacco marketing will help to protect people from this deadly product. The benefits of these measures will help promote and protect the health of sports followers at future large sporting events.

Lastly, keeping sporting events safe through a commitment to health security is a fundamental pillar of the project.

From ensuring the implementation of mass gathering protocols outside and inside stadiums, to adhering to control measures to protect people from infectious disease outbreaks, we are committed to working with partners to ensure all necessary steps are taken to make sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup, safe and secure.

As we all know, teamwork is essential for success in sports. The same is true for protecting and promoting health. We are committed to continually to strive together, for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and beyond to leverage the global power of sport to help people lead the healthiest lives possible.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.