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Hitting the mark

Dr Godfrey Xuereb, ASC, Australian Sports Commission, World Health Organization
Dr Godfrey Xuereb (left) from the World Health Organization with his colleague, Dr Douglas Bettcher.

31 May 2013


On a recent visit to the ASC, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Dr Godfrey Xuereb was full of praise for the pioneering work the Australian Government is doing to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which currently claim the lives of 36 million people across the globe each year.

“We know that to tackle NCDs [and] to reduce risk factors, [a] minister of health alone is not the one to do it,” Dr Xuereb said, whose organisation has teamed with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), AusAID and Secretariat of the Pacific Community to establish the Healthy Islands through Sport (HITS) initiative.

The HITS initiative brings together key decision makers and implementers from ministries of health and ministries responsible for sport from 14 participating Pacific island countries, who discuss how sport can be used to combat NCDs such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Dr Xuereb commended the HITS initiative and labelled the work of the ASC and AusAID in bringing sport and health together as “groundbreaking and revolutionary”. He also said it has provided the perfect blueprint for other nations.

“The HITS program is an excellent model not only for the Pacific, but also for the global community. [It] is a very important initiative that will not only sow the seeds within the Pacific but is a good global example of how the sports community and the health community can sit together and create a win-win.”

The WHO intends to draw on its experiences with the HITS program when developing initiatives for other regions. 

With 80 per cent of NCD-related deaths occurring in developing nations, the HITS initiative expands the Australian Sports Outreach Program, which uses sport activities to communicate health messages and prevent NCDs.

More information:

Australian Sports Commission — ausport.gov.au/supporting/international

AusAID — ausaid.gov.au/aidissues/sport

World Health Organization

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