Jersey can become a world leader in terms of promoting physical activity, according to Jersey Sport chief executive Catriona McAllister.
Addressing the audience at the ‘Inspiring an Active Jersey’ Conference at St Paul’s Centre recently, McAllister demanded ‘bold change’ and highlighted the need for collaboration while targeting inactivity in the Island.
The conference is the first of a series of meetings scheduled to take place over the next few months ahead of the launch of a new government strategy being led by Jersey Sport. The new plan will be released later this year, building upon the success of the existing Fit for the Future strategy which is due to expire in 2018.
The approach, which is expected to be released in August or September, is set to have four main target areas; sporting opportunities, active schools, active island and active places.
McAllister says the document will set out a 25-year plan to enable Jersey to become a world leader in promoting physical activity.
McAllister said: ‘Jersey, with a single government structure that controls all the key areas required for this to work, with a relatively wealthy population, a lovely landscape, and a population that’s all in one area; if we can’t lead the way for other jurisdictions then that for me is an issue.
‘We need to change the way government thinks about physical activity. It is an issue and it’s an Island-wide issue which needs a multi-agency approach. So we need bold change in terms of what government thinks and why they must make it a key priority.
‘There’s a statistic from the World Health Organisation, which says that if someone goes from being inactive to being active – that’s not necessarily playing sport to a high level but just being a bit more active – it adds about seven years to their life expectancy. The impact is massive.’
She added: ‘The key message is that to be successful in achieving that vision we have to make sure tackling inactivity is a collaborative effort. At the moment there is a lot of great work being done but in different departments, different silos.
‘What we need to do is have an overarching strategy and policy which says tackling inactivity is key policy across all of government.’
When asked why the new strategy was so long-term, McAllister answered: ‘The reason it needs to be long-term is that we can’t make behavioural changes overnight; it takes time.
‘The idea is that we will have high-level strategy talks about the case for investing in preventing inactivity. It will be a phased, operational delivery plan in four-year political cycles. The principles and leading lights don’t change but we continue on the critical path to get Jersey to be one of the most active populations in the world.’
Elaine Wyllie, founder of the ‘Daily Mile’ which encourages children in UK schools to run or jog for 15 minutes each day, was among the keynote speakers, along with Dr Charlie Foster from the University of Bristol and Michele McCoy from NHS Dumfries and Galloway.
The event was attended by just shy of 40 senior politicians, business leaders, heads of States departments and senior representatives from the health, sport and education sectors.