MEMORANDUM BY SPORT ENGLAND (PH 90)
SPORT'S ROLE IN IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH
1. Sport: A Force For Good
2. Counting the Cost of Less Active Lives
3. Increasing Sporting Participation Rates
4. The Need to Revitalise School Sport
5. Policies to Promote Sport and Improve
Appendix: Source Material
1. SPORT: A FORCE
"Sport means all forms of physical activity
which through casual or organised participation aim at expressing
or improving physical fitness and mental well-being forming social
relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels"
Council of Europe: European Sports Charter, 1993.
The Importance of Sport
1.1 Sport has always been important to this
country. It provides enjoyment for millions of participants and
spectators: it unites the country behind individual competitors
and teams; and success can generate a "feel-good" factor
that gives the whole nation a lift.
1.2 In recent years, research has demonstrated
that sport can also make a more tangible contribution to the country's
well-being. For example:
(i) evidence from OFSTED1 shows that schools
which take sport seriously generate faster-than-average improvements
in academic results;
(ii) research by the Leisure Industries Research
Centre2 has recorded sizeable increases in the number of jobs
and the amount of wealth that sport now creates; and
(iii) In 1999, the Culture, Media and Sport
Select Committee3 accepted, on the basis of "authoritative
research", that exercise and participation in sport help
to combat social exclusion".
1.3 The CMS Select Committee concluded,
at the same time, that sporting activity also improves people's
health. 4 This message was subsequently endorsed by (i) the Government
White Paper Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, 5 which
noted that sport can improve both physical and mental well-being,
and (ii) the Conservative Party's "blue paper" A
Future for Sport, published in January 2000, which argued
that sport is "vitally important to the health of the nation".
1.4 The Prime Minister has since stated
that sport can help the Government achieve its objectives on a
number of different fronts. As he said in September6, the investment
of Lottery money in sport "is not just a sports policy, it's
a health policy, an education policy, an anti-crime policy, [and]
an anti-drugs policy" as well.
1.5 Sport England welcomes this growing
cross-party realisation that sport is not only important in itself,
but can play a key role in tackling important social issues.
1.6 In particular, we believe that sport
can help to improve public health and, in the process, (i) increase
people's quality of life and (ii) reduce the burdens on the National
1.7 In short, we believe that, in future,
the promotion of sport and physical activity should be seen as
an integral element within policies to improve public health.
2. COUNTING THE
People's less active lives
2.1 In our view, it has never been more
important to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity.
Economic changes mean that fewer people are engaged in physically
active jobs, and social trends (such as increased car use and
the growing availability of labour-saving devices) have also resulted
in people leading less active lives.
2.2 At the same time, there has been a rapid
increase in the number of ways in which people can spend their
leisure time. As a result, sport has to compete against a growing
range of other leisure activitiesmany of which involve
little or no physical activity. For example, many boys, in particular,
now spend much of their free time playing computer games7.
2.3 Such trends have resulted in the British
people, as a whole, leading increasingly sedentary livesas
a number of different surveys, conducted over the last 10 years,
have shown. For example:
(i) a1990 survey, conducted by the GB Sports
Council and the Health Education Authority, found that most people
were insufficiently active for them to derive any health benefits
from their lifestyles. The activity levels recommended by the
HEA (now the Health Development Agency) were not being met by
seven out of 10 men and eight out of 10 women8;
(ii) the Department of Health's 1997 Health
Survey for England: The Health of Young People found that
a third of boys aged 2-7, and 38 per cent of girls of the same
age, were not meeting the Government's recommended activity guidelines;
(iii) a MORI survey, commissioned by Sport
England and released earlier this year, revealed a sharp decline,
over the previous five years, in the amount of physical education
that schoolchildren are receiving. For instance, the proportion
spending two hours or more in PE lessons each week fell from 46
to 33 per cent between 1994 and 19999. (On the same basis, the
decline amongst pupils in primary years 2-4 was even sharperwith
the proportion falling from 32 to 11 per cent).
Obesity: a growing problem
2.4 Other surveys have shown how public
health is being affected by these trends. In particular, obesity
is becoming an increasingly serious by-product of people's less
(i) the proportion of obese people doubled
during the 1980s10;
(ii) between 1994 and 1998, there were substantial
increases in the number of men and women suffering from obesity.
In England, the proportion of the population who were obese rose
from 13.8 to 17.3 per cent among men and 17.3 to 21.1 per cent
among women; 11 and
(iii) eight per cent of British four year-olds
are now obeseas are 17 per cent of 15 year-olds. Moreover,
obesity among children is on a sharply rising trend. As the British
Heart Foundation explained in a recent publication12. "These
figures represent an alarmingly fast increase, with the number
of obese six year-olds doubling in the last 10 years and the number
of obese 15 year-olds more than trebling".
2.5 As the BHF has pointed out, the growing
prevalence of obesity represents a major threat to the health
of the nation, as it is associated with problems like high blood
pressure, raised blood cholesterol, and non-insulin dependent
diabetesall of which bring an increased risk of coronary
heart disease. (Research has shown that such serious problems
are becoming apparent in obese children as young as nine13).
Tackling Ill-health Through Sport
2.6 We share the BHF's view that physical
activity (along with healthy eating) is one of the key ways of
tackling obesity. But physical activity can ameliorate a number
of other health problems, too. For example:
(i) it reducessignificantlythe
risk of coronary heart disease. Indeed, people who are physically
active are half as likely to suffer from CHD as their inactive
(ii) scientific evidence suggests that weight-bearing
exercise (such as gymnastics, aerobics and dance) helps to maintain
bone massnot least amongst elderly people. As a result,
those who take part in such activity are less likely to suffer
from osteoporosis, which results in about 60,000 hip and 50,000
wrist fractures a year15;
(iii) there is evidence to suggest that increased
levels of physical activity reduce a person's vulnerability to
both strokes and certain types of cancer16; and
(iv) regular exercise has been found to improve
psychological, as well as physical, well-being. It is associated
with measurable increases in self-esteem among both adults and
children, and leads to a reduced risk of mild to moderate depression17.
As the Government acknowledged in Saving Lives: Our Healthier
Nation "A physically active lifestyle.....promotes good mental
2.7 ccordingly, sport can play a major role
in helping the Government meet many of its key health targets,
such as (i) reducing the death rate from suicide, and undetermined
injury by at least a fifth and (ii) cutting, by at least a third,
the death rate from heart disease, stroke and related illnesses
among people aged under 65.
Sport: Cost-effective Preventative Medicine
2.8 For all these reasons, there is a strong
case for increasing, in the interests of public health, the importance
attached to the promotion of physical and sporting activity. There
is an equally persuasive economic case for doing so. Evidence
from Britain and other countries suggests that improvements in
individuals' fitness benefit not only the people concerned but
their employers and, more generally, the country as a whole:
(i) a 1986 review of exercise initiatives
in North America put the average financial benefit, to the company,
at $513 per worker per year19;
(ii) Cyanamaid, a large UK pharmaceutical
firm, found that those employees who participated in its fitness
programme took appreciably less sickness leave than their less
active colleagueswith savings amounting to around £890
per participating employee per year20; and
(iii) recent figures from the United States,
where 14 per cent of all deaths can be attributed to diet and
activity patterns, have shown that massive cost savings would
be made if those leading sedentary lifestyles could be persuaded
to increase their levels of physical activity. Indeed, the research
concluded that the direct and indirect costs of physical inactivity
in the USA "may well be in excess of $150 billion",
as the medical costs associated inactive members of the community
are, on average, 30 per cent higher than for those who lead physically
2.9 In the United Kingdom, as in the United
States, sport has enormous scope to act as a form of highly effectiveand
"More People, More Places, More Medals"
3.1 Sport England is determined to ensure
that more people have the opportunity to take part in sportand
then choose to do so. Our three key objectives are "More
People, More Places, More Medals", as we want to (i) maximise
sporting participation rates, (ii) improve the country's facilities
base, and (iii) let our up-and-coming and top sportsmen and women
compete effectively on the world stage.
3.2 We believe that this triple-pronged
approach can create a virtuous circle of sporting success. Over
time, improved facilities will help to increase sporting participation
rates; in turn, rising participation rates will give the country
a bigger talent pool; and the more talented performers we have,
the better our chances of having medal and title-winning sportsmen
and women, whose achievements will encourage (i) more people to
participate in sport and (ii) more schools and local authorities
to provide good sporting facilities.
Creating a "level playing field"
3.3 While Sport England is keen to encourage
everyone to take part in sport, we are conscious that we do not
begin with a "level playing field". Research22 has revealed
that sports participation rates vary from one group to another:
(i) boys are more likely to participate in
out-of-school sport than girls;
(ii) similarly, men are more likely to participate
in sport than women;
(iii) the proportion of sports participants
is higher in the South than the North;
(iv) members of the top socio-economic groups
are far more likely to (a) participate in sport, (b) join a sports
club, and (c) use local authority pools and sports halls than
those in other socio-economic groupings; and
(v) in general, disabled people and members
of ethnic minority communities are less likely to take part in
sport or use local authority sports facilities than other members
3.4 Such findings have influenced the way
in which Sport England worksnot least in its capacity as
a Lottery distributor. Indeed, our ten-year Lottery strategy23,
published last year, explained how we will use Lottery funding
to help tackle the inequities that our research has identified.
(i) we have since worked with other Lottery
distributors to create the "Awards for All" scheme,
which provides small grants to small, local groups which had not
previously benefited from Lottery funding;
(ii) we set a number of targets for our Community
Projects Fundsuch as, over the ten-year period, (a) making
at least 5,000 awards that will significantly benefit disabled
people, (b) ensuring that at least half the sports schemes we
fund will specifically increase the participation of women and
girls, and (c) ensuring that a minimum of 350 capital awards go
to facilities which, because of their location, will significantly
benefit people from ethnic minority communities;
(iii) In April, we intend to launch an Active
Communities Development Fund to support projects (a) seeking to
use sport as a means of tackling social exclusion and (b) aimed
at addressing under-representation in sporting activity by low
income groups, ethnic minorities and people with a disability;
(iv) we are creating a number of Sports Action
Zones in which, using our new powers of solicitation (granted
under the National Lottery Act 1998), we can pro-actively identify
and assist areas of particular recreational deprivation.
Implementing a ten-year strategy for sport
3.5 Good progress is being made with the
(i) so far, almost 4,900 awards (amounting
to £15,359,979) have been made to English sports projects
under "Awards for All",
(ii) the first Sports Action Zones were designated
in January 2000; the first Zone managers are already in place;
and the next tranche of SAZs will be announced in 2002-03; and
(iii) "before" and "after"
monitoring of our Lottery-funded projects has shown that, on average,
Lottery funding has generated substantial increases in facility
usage. On average, the level of usage has more than doubledwith
attendance by women and young people rising threefold.
3.6 In addition, Sport England has used
its Exchequer funding to launch a number of projects to encourage
more girls to becomeand then remainphysically active.
They include GirlSport, which advises them on joining (or forming)
a sports club.
3.7 We believe that, taken together, such
initiatives (and the wider elements of our Active Schools, Active
Sports and Active Communities programmes) will help us reach our
wider targets for sport in Englandlike achieving a 20 per
cent increase in the number of adults taking part in regular sporting
activity. The achievement of such objectives will (i) significantly
improve public health as a whole and (ii) enable the Government
to achieve its objective of "narrowing the health gap"
4. THE NEED
The Importance of Sport for School-aged Children
4.1 While Sport England is particularly
keen to increase sporting participation rates among a number of
different social groups, to reduce existing inequities, our top
priority is to get young people to lead more active lives.
4.2 For a whole host of reasons, it is vital
to increase sporting activity rates among school-aged children.
(i) sport can provide them with a personally
and socially beneficial outlet for their energy and competitiveness';
(ii) it can teach them lessons that will
serve them well for the rest of their livessuch as the
importance of teamwork, respect for rules and winning and losing
with equally good grace; and
(iii) it can provide them with invaluable
opportunities, for self-expression, and a way for less academically-gifted
pupils, in particular, to increase their self-esteem.
4.3 Increased sporting participation rates
are important on health, as well as social and educational grounds.
School sport and PE have a particularly important role to play
at a time when:
(i) only 1 per cent of schoolchildren now
cycle to school, 24
(ii) fewer than 50 per cent of pupils now
walk to school25, and
(iii) PE lessons are the only physical activity
in which 30 per cent of 11-16 year-olds are participating on a
Links between activity levels in childhood and
4.4 The promotion of school sport and PE
is a wise investment for the future, as there is a clear link
between having an active childhood and being physically active
in later life. While a sizeable proportion of active children
become active adults, only 2 per cent of inactive teenagers become
physically active in adulthood27.
4.5 Although the health benefits of physical
activity have become well established, we believe that too little
has been done, over many years, to promote sport and physical
education in schools. Indeed, a poor situation seems to have been
growing worse. For example, a 1993 survey28 showed that secondary
schools in England (and Wales) were allocating less time to physical
education than their counterparts in every other EU countryand
subsequent research by MORI29, published in 2000, indicated that
there had been a further deterioration in the quality and quantity
of physical education, in both primary and secondary schools,
over the period 1994-99.
4.6 As previously indicated, 33 per cent
of boys and 38 per cent of girls aged 2-7 are not meeting their
age group's recommended activity guidelines. However, while these
statistics are alarming enough, the situation becomes even more
serious among older childrenparticularly girls. On the
whole, girls' activity levels tend to drop sharply between the
ages of eight and ten and, by the time they reach 15 years of
age, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of them are classed as "inactive".
(Activity levels among boys tend to peak between the ages of 10
and 13, before declining during adolescence) 30.
Action by Sport England
4.7 A number of reasons have been put forward
to explain this unsatisfactory state of affairs. They include:
the sell-off of many school playing fields; the emphasis on literacy
and numeracy resulting in physical education being squeezed out
of the curriculum; the poor state of school-club links; and the
lack of time devoted to physical education within initial teacher
training (ITT). Sport England hopes that policy-makers will address
each of these issues as a matter of urgencyand we have
set out (in section 5) some of the policies that, in our view,
are prerequisites for the much-needed revival of school sport.
4.8 In the meantime, Sport England is taking
action on a number of fronts to increase both the quality and
the quantity of the sporting opportunities available to young
people. For example, our Active Schools programme includes:
(i) Coaching for Teachers, which enhances
teachers' skills by giving them opportunities to develop their
sports coaching ability and obtain recognised qualifications.
(ii) Panathlon, which enables schools in
inner-city areas, lacking the facilities to stage competitive
events themselves, to take part in inter-school sporting competitions;
(iii) the Sportsmark scheme, which gives
proper recognition to the secondary and special schools providing
a quality physical education and sports programme to their studentsand
the wider community. (The Activemark initiative provides a similar
service to primary schools); and
(iv) Sportsearch, an interactive computer
programme, which enables young people to assess their personal
aptitude for particular sports and make contact with local clubs
in their area.
4.9 In addition, we funded and organised
the Millennium Youth Games, which involved over 250,000 12 to
15 year old children and culminated, in August, in an Olympic-style
Grand Final in Southamptonthe biggest event of its kind
in the world.
4.10 However, the Lottery-funded School
Sports Co-ordinators programme is perhaps Sport England's most
ambitious initiativeaiming to bolster after-school activities,
promote inter-school sports fixtures, and strengthen school-club
links. The first 140 Co-ordinators took up their posts at the
beginning of the new school year (in September), and it is hoped
to have 1,000 in place within four years.
5. POLICIES TO
"A Sporting Future for All"
5.1 Sport England welcomed the many positive
proposals contained in the Government's sports strategy, A
Sporting Future for All31, published earlier this year. It
outlined numerous policies that should increase sporting participation
rates among young people and reduce the numbers who subsequently
drop out of sport because of inadequate facilities or coaching.
5.2 The policies outlined in the Strategy
(i) an increase in the number of Specialist
(ii) enhanced coaching for talented 14-18
(iii) a commitment that at least 20 per cent
of Sport England's Lottery income should be allocated to youth
5.3 As the Strategy explained, such policies
should have a positive effect on public health, by broadening
participation in sport.
Further steps forward
5.4 Sport England hopes that policy-makers
will build on the Sports Strategy in the years ahead. We have
put forward a number of proposals that could, in our view, complement
the Strategy and build a brighter future for English sport. For
(i) we believe that the Government's "aspiration"
on physical educationthat schools should provide two hours
of curricular or extra-curricular activities per weekis
insufficiently ambitious. Not only should this level of activity
be a firm commitment, rather than an "aspiration", but
it shouldin our viewbe achieved within school hours,
and not through a combination of intra-and extra-curricular time;
(ii) we are concerned that, at present, as
little as six hours' training and professional development can
be devoted to physical education within full-time Initial Teacher
Training (ITT) coursesalthough it is widely believed that
a figure of 60 hours would be more appropriate. There is a strong
case, therefore, for setting a minimum, substantial time that
should be allocated to PE Training within ITT;
(iii) a number of further changes could protect
more playing fields from development. For instance: (a) Sport
England could get involved in planning issues at an earlier stage
in proceedings by becoming a statutory consultee in the development
plan process; (b) the current review of a Planning Policy Guidance
note (PPG17) should create an opportunity to ensure that playing
pitch assessments become statutory elements of any local plan
review; and (c) there may be a case for reconsidering the situation
under which Sport England is not a statutory consultee in cases
where it is proposed to develop playing fields that local authorities
have closed (and from which the public have been excluded) for
a five year period:
(iv) the outdated and anomalous Recreational
Charities Act 1958 could be modernised, to put sport on a level
footing with the arts and enable more amateur sports clubs to
secure charitable statuswhich would reduce their tax bills
and increase people's willingness to give them time, money and
advice (as they would know that they were helping organisation
adjudged to be pursuing charitable objectives); and
(v) as we have previously suggested (in a
submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee).
Lottery distributors should be able to provide applicants with
loans, rather than grants, in a limited number of casesto
help our Lottery income go further.
5.5 In its report Couch Kids: The Growing
Epidemic, published earlier this year, the British Heart Foundation
made a number of similar recommendations and the Central Council
of Physical Recreation's recently published draft sports manifesto,
Towards an Active Britain, also contains a number of sensible
proposals which would increase sport's ability to improve public
5.6 We hope the Committee finds this submission
both interesting and informative, and would be happy to answer
any questions that its Members may have.
1. Sports Colleges: The First Two Years,
2. The Economic Impact of Sport.
3. Staging International Sporting Events,
5. Cm 4386, July 1999.
6. Brighton, 26 September 2000.
7. See Young People and Health, Health Education
8. Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey.
9. Young People and Sport in England.
10. Health Survey for England: Cardiovascular
12. Couch Kids: The Growing Epidemic, 2000.
13. Obesity: The Report of the British Nutrition
Foundation Task Force, 1999.
14. British Medical Journal, 304 p 597-601.
15. See the Value of Sport to the Health
of the Nation, Sport England, 1999, p. 11.
16. Ibid, p 12.
17. Ibid, p 11.
18. Para 3.50.
19. Economic benefits of enhanced fitness,
R Shepherd, 1986.
20. Get fit for business, research paper
from the Fitness Industry Association.
21. The Physician and Sportsmedicine , Volume
28, Number 10, October 2000.
22. See The Value of Sport to the Health
of the Nation, p7-9.
23. Investing for our Sporting Future, May
24. Young People and Sport in England, 1999.
26. British Journal of Physical Education,
Volume 28, Number 3, p21-24.
27. Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey,
28. British Journal of Physical Education,
Volume 24, Number 3, p26-27.
29. Young People and Sport in England, 1999.
30. Health Survey for England: The Health
of Young People 1995-97.
31. April 2000.