7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
- National strategies
The strategies for the promotion of sport and physical and mental well-being are in line with the WHO Global Action Plan as well as the policies of the European Union, which take into account all the factors influencing physical activity in a cross-sectoral perspective.
Therefore, the promotion of physical activity involves various actors: the Department for Sport, the Ministry of Health, the Italian National Olympic Committee, and the sports system, which includes private associations.
Sport is a subject matter of concurrent legislation among the central government and the Regions (Art. 117 of the Constitution) http://www.senato/it/documenti/repository/istituzione/costituzione.pdf . The State sets the fundamental principles and regulates agonistic sport (D.Lgsl. 242/99 and DL 138/2002), while the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces can legislate on the matter.
Moreover, the Italian sport system is going through a process of reform and reorganisation aimed at strengthening its effectiveness and efficiency.
In July 2020, (with the decree of the Minister for Youth Policy and Sport) the Department of Sport was set up within the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. It is responsible for coordinating public policy in the field of sport in support of the President of the Council or of the Delegated Political Authority.
In 2018, law 145/2018 (art. 1, paragraph 629), set up the public company “Sport and Health” (Sport e Salute S.p.a.). According to its Statue, the company produces and provides services of general interest for sport, in accordance with the guidelines of the competent political Authority.
In April 2020, the Minister for Youth Policy and Sport issued a Guideline Act for the three-year period 2020-2022 which defines public policies in the field of the promotion of sport and the objectives of the Società Sport e Salute. In recalling the Guidelines for Sport presented by the Minister to the Parliament, the Act is based on the binomial “sport – health”, and identifies young people, women and all those who are at a disadvantage as the main beneficiaries of any government action.
The Guideline Act is divided into 4 strategic areas:
1) “Actions to address the health and socio-economic emergency related to the epidemic due to Covid-19”.
2) “Modernisation and promotion of the efficiency of the sports system”. This area provides incentives to national sports federations that promote:
- social inclusion of people with disabilities;
- healthy lifestyles and the fight against childhood obesity;
- sport in schools as a mean of combating marginalisation and various forms of addiction;
- cultural inclusion;
- prevention of discrimination, violence and racism;
- sport as a social aggregation tool.
3) “Increasing the social, scientific, educational and ethical value of sport, raising the levels of inclusion, education and promotion of the psycho-physical well-being of people”. In this context, the Società Sport e Salute must promote sport as a tool to improve the condition of young people, involving young people in the planning of innovative responses to the needs of the community, and promote sport in schools. The Company is also in charge of fully implementing the EU Sport Work Plan 2017-2020.
4) “Economic dimension of sport; initiatives related to the development and promotion of sport tech-industry-economy and employment through sport”.
Sport and Health has developed an Action Plan 2020-2022 which is based on the Guideline Act of the Minister for Youth Policy and Sport. The Action Plan promotes the health and well-being of the population through sport and physical activity at all stages of the individual’s life, individually or in a group, within a context of strengthening social cohesion.
The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) regulates and manages national sports activities in Italy. CONI is a public body entrusted with the organization and strengthening of national sport, and the promotion and dissemination of sport. It is the Confederation of Sports Federations and Associated Disciplines. Today, CONI is present in 102 Provinces and 19 Regions, recognizes 45 National Sports Federations, 19 Associated Disciplines, 14 National Sports Promotion Bodies and 1 territorial, 20 Meritorious Associations 95,000 sports clubs and 11 million people are members of these bodies.
The importance of amateur sports associations and clubs affiliated to one or more of the above-mentioned bodies should also be stressed. The sports associations are the real engine of the sports at a grass root level.
As part of the National Prevention Plan, the Ministry of Health, in agreement with the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, promotes the national program “Gaining in Health. Making healthy choices easy” (Guadagnare Salute. Rendere facili le scelte salutari) approved with Decree on May 4, 2007. The programme is part of the European strategy for the prevention and control of chronic diseases Gaining in Health promoted by the World Health Organisation.
The primary objective of the Program is to promote healthy lifestyles by acting in an integrated and coordinated way on the four main risk factors of chronic degenerative diseases of epidemiological importance: smoking, alcohol, incorrect diet, and physical inactivity. According to the Program, these risk factors must be addressed not only from the health point of view but as social phenomena. The Gaining in Health strategy identifies four specific programs:
Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people
The Department for Sport manages the “Fund for interventions in favour of amateur sports associations, amateur sports clubs and sports promotion bodies” established by Decree Law 87/2018 (art.13, paragraph 5). The Fund was allocated € 3.4 million in 2018, of € 11.5 million in 2019, of € 9.8 million in 2020, of € 10.2 million in 2021, of € 10.3 million in 2022, of € 5.6 million in 2023 and of € 5.2 million per year from 2024.
In 2020, according to the decree, funds were allocated to financing programs aimed at:
- promoting sport, including equal opportunities, combating all forms of discrimination, increasing the integration of disabled people, ethnic minorities, immigrants and other vulnerable groups;
- promoting sport in school of all levels, including afternoon and extra-curricular activities;
- encouraging healthy lifestyles through the practice of sport even among students who are in difficult socio-economic conditions.
The Department of Sport also has a Fund to support the strengthening of the Italian sports movement created with Law 205/2017 (art. 1, paragraph 369). The Fund was allocated €12 million for 2018, €7 million for 2019, €8.2 million for 2020 and €10.5 million from the year 2021.
These resources are used to finance projects for one of the following purposes:
1. promoting the sport of disabled people;
2. support the implementation of international sports events;
3. supporting motherhood of non-professional athletes;
4. ensuring the right to practise sport as the main form of developing children’s personalities, including through awareness-raising campaigns;
5. supporting the implementation of women’s sporting events at national and international level.
With reference to basic sports activities, some of the associations most present at a national level that stand out for including training and sports practice in the framework of an educational mission are the Salesian Youth Sports Clubs (PGS, https://www.pgsitalia.org/), the Italian Sports Center (CSI, https://csi-net.it/) and the Italian Union of Sport for All (UISP, http://uisp.it/).
The PGS network and the CSI are among the main educational associations in the sports sector oriented by a Christian vision. Mainly integrated with the activities of Catholic oratories, the 2183 PGS active throughout Italy have 109,000 members at a national level. Established in the 1960s, the PGS have developed over time an educational approach in line with the Salesian pedagogical model, with particular attention to the community dimension and the active involvement of families, lay people, sports and religious educators. In 1979 CONI recognized the PGS as a Sports Promotion Body. As stated on the official website, the objective of the PGS is “to develop the educational, cultural and social dimensions of sporting activity, within an articulated project (...) inspired by the Christian vision, the preventive system of Don Bosco and the contributions from the Salesian tradition”.
Another sports association of the Catholic area throughout the country is the CSI (Italian Sports Center) founded in the 1970s. Like the network of Salesian Youth Sports Clubs mentioned above, the CSI - which brings together 12,708 sports clubs in 19 different regions - promotes sport as an educational activity based explicitly on the values of the Christian religion. The ecclesial orientation of the educational role of the CSI and its member structures is clearly spelled out in its Statute. Young people are its main target audience. 40% of the members (who are 1,354,000 in total) are under the age of 20 and almost half of the sports teams are youths (18,426 out of 40,142). Finally, the Italian Union of Sport for All (UISP) is a social and sports promotion association which includes over 1.3 million members and 17000 affiliated sports clubs. The UISP was founded in 1948 as a sports organization close to leftist parties. Its aims are to promote culture and sporting practice among the workers. During the 1960s, the UISP began to gradually detach itself from the direct influence of parties, until it was recognized in the 1970s by CONI as a Sports Promotion Body.
As stated on its official website, UISP promotes “education, civics, ethics through sport” as a “social good that affects health, quality of life, integration, education and relationships between people”. A specific area is dedicated to children and young people, with an approach based on peer education, self-management and the logic of a network between different local actors (school, health and social workers, local public bodies, other associations, etc.).
Physical education in schools
School sports policies, promoted by the Ministry of Education, through the implementation of physical education projects in schools, are aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles and enhancing diversity. Thus, they become an irreplaceable means of preventing obesity, violence, bullying, racial and gender discrimination.
The activities are aimed at:
- promoting a correct culture of sport;
- combating early school leaving;
- promoting inclusion;
- encouraging the active participation of students with disabilities.
The School Reform, approved by Law 107/2015 (Cf. chapter 6), at Art. 1, paragraph 7, letter g), provides for the “Strengthening of physical education and development of behaviours inspired by a healthy lifestyle, with particular reference to nutrition, physical education and sport, and attention to the protection of the right to study of students practicing competitive sports”.
Physical education is a compulsory subject for one hour per week in the primary school curriculum, and two hours per week in secondary schools.
The teaching of physical education, together with other educational components, contributes to the education of young people, with the aim of encouraging their integration into civil society.
In order to enhance physical activity in all schools, starting from the kindergarten, the Società Sport e Salute in collaboration with the Ministry of Education promotes the project Sport at School (Sport a Scuola). This project includes innovative teaching models to support the skills of teachers. Among the specific projects, it is worth highlighting:
- Sport in the classroom (Sport in classe). The project is open to all primary schools and provides two hours of physical activity per week. It includes the figure of a Tutor graduated in Sport Science. The Tutor collaborates in the design and implementation of the activities, supports the teachers in the gym, for one hour a week. Particular attention is paid to the training of teachers, who are provided with educational tools for the development of programs of physical activities suitable for the inclusion of disabled children. In addition, the project provides sports equipment for all schools participating for the first time.
- Schools open to sport (Scuole aperte allo sport). The project is aimed at high schools and realized in collaboration with the National Sports Federations. It aims at fostering physical activities, discovering new sports, promoting the educational values of sport, and offering specific know-how and tools.
The Youth Apprenticeship Programme (alternanza scuola lavoro) which is compulsory for all students during the last three years of high school, is one of the innovations introduced by law 107/2015. It is an educational experience, aimed at offering students training opportunities through work experience in a host facility. In this context, high-level student athletes attending high secondary schools are offered the possibility of fulfilling the commitment, their obligations through sports. This instrument provides high level athletes the possibility to develop skills that are useful for integration into the work market.
Collaboration and partnerships
Guideline Act for the three-year period 2020-2022, which defines public policies in the field of sport promotion, provides that the Società Sport e Salute interacts with the Ministry of Education in order to promote sport in primary and secondary schools as a means of preventing and combating phenomena of bullying, the use of narcotic drugs and alcohol, drug abuse and the Internet Addiction Disorder. In addition, Sport e Salute interacts with the Ministry of University and Research to develop proposals to strengthen university pathways related to sports.
The “Fund for interventions in favour of amateur sports associations, amateur sports clubs and sports promotion bodies” managed by the Department for Sport (Cf. previous paragraphs) finances sports activities in schools at all levels.
The Department for sport cooperates with other central, regional and local administrations, with schools, local communities, the sports system, foundations and non-profit associations to plan and implement interventions for the promotion of physical activity, above all for children and young people and to promote a culture of active-life as a fundamental tool for the physical and mental well-being.
The 3rd of November 2021 a deal between State and the regions has been adopted, with the document containing “Guidelines on physical activity. Review of the recommendations for the different age groups and physiological situations and new recommendations for specific diseases”, made by the working group on the promotion of physical activity and health protection, instituted with the decree by the Minister of health on 25th of July 2019 with its following edits and integrations. The document widens the topic of the importance of physical activity in the prevention and management of the main chronical and untransmittable diseases (cardiovascular, oncological, respiratory and psychiatric ones) as a “therapeutical tool” needed for the improvement of the physical and mental health, as well as a guarantee for a better wellbeing and lifestyle for the population”.
The document includes also a reflection on “how to restart” the population in the post pandemic times and how to build the possibility and the opportunity for practicing physical activity taking into account the obstacles and the restrictions imposed by the emergency.