Objective To determine the priorities and activities of International Sport Federations (IFs) with respect to the promotion of health in their sport and for the general population.
Methods All 35 IFs participating in Olympic Games in 2014 or in 2016 were asked to rate the importance of 10 indicated topics, and to report their programmes, guidelines or research activities on 16 health-related topics using an online questionnaire (response rate 97%).
Results On average, the ‘fight against doping’ had the highest priority followed by ‘health of their elite athlete’ and ‘image as a safe sport’. The topics with the lowest importance ratings were ‘health of their recreational athlete’, ‘increasing the number of recreational athletes’ and ‘health of the general population’. All except one IF reported to have health-related programmes/guidelines/research activities; most IFs had 7 or 8 of the listed activities. Eight IFs (23.5%) stated to have activities for ‘prevention of chronic diseases in the general population’ but only FIFA and FINA reported related projects.
Conclusions IFs aimed to protect the health of their elite athletes through a variety of activities, however the health and number of their recreational athletes was of low importance for them. Thus, IFs are missing an important opportunity to increase the popularity of their sport, and to contribute to the health of the general population by encouraging physical activity through their sport. FIFA’s ‘Football for Health’ and FINA’s ‘Swim for All’ projects could serve as role models.
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