Geneva, Switzerland – In an exciting development, FIFA and the World Health Organization (WHO) have extended their partnership for another four years to harness the influence of football in promoting healthy lifestyles and ensuring equitable access to healthcare worldwide.
The extension of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), initially signed on October 4, 2019, was sealed by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly held in Geneva. Both organizations expressed their commitment to leveraging the power of football to achieve health-related objectives.
Dr. Tedros highlighted the natural synergy between health and football, emphasizing that promoting healthy habits, safe stadium environments, and the physical and mental benefits of physical activity were among WHO’s priorities. He commended the successful partnership between WHO and FIFA, which has effectively communicated evidence-based messages to individuals of all ages, enabling them to lead healthier and safer lives through the magic of football and sports. Dr. Tedros affirmed WHO’s eagerness to continue this impactful journey.
Gianni Infantino echoed Dr. Tedros’ sentiments, expressing his pride in signing and renewing the MoU with WHO. He recognized the opportunity to disseminate critical physical and mental health messages to football’s global audience and expressed gratitude towards Dr. Tedros, his dedicated team, and all healthcare professionals who contribute to improving lives.
Reflecting on the past four years, Infantino emphasized the potential impact of uniting FIFA and WHO to make a positive difference in an increasingly divided world. Since 2019, the partnership has leveraged the influence of football to promote health and well-being, with notable achievements, including the successful launch of the Football Unites the World campaign during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. This initiative, supported by renowned footballers like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Carli Lloyd, alongside WHO’s Goodwill Ambassadors for Sport and Health Alisson Becker and Didier Drogba, exemplified football’s unparalleled ability to unite people from diverse backgrounds.
Throughout the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, FIFA and WHO collaborated with the Qatar Ministry of Public Health on numerous initiatives prioritizing health and well-being. These included implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases through mass gathering and surveillance, enacting enhanced policies to safeguard attendees from the harms of tobacco by ensuring smoke-free seating areas, and offering healthy food options in stadiums, with 30% of the food being healthy and vegetarian. These endeavors demonstrated that major sporting events can provide healthy, sustainable, and high-quality food environments.
The partnership between FIFA and WHO extended beyond the World Cup, encompassing various digital campaigns and initiatives since 2020. These endeavors addressed a wide range of health-related issues, such as mental health (#ReachOut), domestic violence prevention (#SafeHome), appreciation for healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic (#HumanitysHeroes), and the promotion of equitable access to vaccinations, diagnostics, and life-saving tools (#ACTogether). Additionally, the “Pass the message to kick out coronavirus campaign” featured FIFA Legends encouraging people worldwide to take five steps to curb the spread of the disease. These initiatives received substantial support from institutions like the African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the European Commission, facilitating global dissemination of the messages.
For the past three years, FIFA and WHO have championed the #BeActive campaign, advocating for regular physical activity. WHO recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day for healthy adults and 60 minutes for children. Unfortunately, current WHO data reveals that 80% of adolescents do not meet these guidelines.