Sport for Health among Refugees

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Sport can serve many purposes. For example, researchers have shown that people who participate in athletics during high school frequently have better grades, are less likely to get into trouble, and girls are less likely to get pregnant. Communities can also profit, as sports have the potential to generate additional economic impact and can sometimes bring people together. 

Given these advantages, policy makers and government officials increasingly seek to ensure sport opportunities for all members of a population, including those who are under-served or might otherwise be excluded. Refugees fall into the latter category. 

Recently, Arden Anderson, of Texas A&M University, and an international group of collaborators, examined ways to best deliver sport to refugees. They focused on The Netherlands and Germany, two countries with a large influx of refugees over the past two years. 

Through several rounds of data collection, they asked experts in the field about the benefits of sport for refugees, challenges in delivering sport, and the strategies that had been successful. 

The experts pointed to several benefits of sport participation, including increased activity levels, diversionary experiences, stress reduction, coping, and the ability to develop friendships. 

A number of factors could make offering sport difficult. These included transportation issues, conflict among refugees, and the capacity of the sport organization. Language barriers also limited participation, as did cultural differences, gender issues, and the lack of awareness of the opportunities.

As a way of overcoming these barriers, the experts tried to integrate refugees into the sport clubs, increased training for volunteers and coaches, and engaged in a number of techniques to increase awareness. 

The experts in the study noted that these tactics helped to make sport available for all—both citizen and refugee alike.