Here’s what the new county councils can do to promote sports and exercise

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What is the sports sector looking for from the county councils that will commence work this March? OLL Communications Specialist Niko Peltokangas lays out the kinds of decisions the councils could make right at the beginning of their term to boost wellbeing through sports and exercise.

Although responsibility for promoting physical exercise remains with the municipalities, sports and exercise also affect the funding of wellbeing services counties – and, most importantly, they impact the wellbeing of the people in each county. This is why the advocacy work of the Finnish Student Sports Federation and the rest of the sports sector did not end with the wellbeing services county elections.

A committee and strategy for promoting physical exercise

The county councils will make major decisions on sport and exercise in their very first meetings. They will adopt an administrative regulation that defines the county council and other institutions of the wellbeing services county – including a committee that is responsible for promoting physical exercise.

The Finnish Olympic Committee has called for each wellbeing services county to establish a wellbeing and health promotion committee whose tasks would include promoting physical exercise. This kind of committee, along with the officials that support its activities, would provide good links between the wellbeing services county and municipal sports and fitness services.

In addition to the administrative regulation, the county councils will adopt a strategy and a wellbeing plan for the wellbeing services county. The common objective of OLL and the sports sector as a whole is clear: the county councils must list physical exercise in these documents as a form of preventive health care. This does not need to be complicated, as OLL president Essi Lumme recently explained.

Political parties have committed to developing service chains

Political parties have acknowledged in different documents the importance of physical exercise in the treatment of health and illnesses. This is mentioned in the ‘Report on sports policy,’ which was prepared by the previous government and contains proposals with which all parliamentary parties were in agreement. It also foresees the transfer of social welfare and health care services to wellbeing services counties, which in the plans at the time were still referred to as 'regions'.

The guidelines in the report on sports policy are a clear match with the OLL’s county election programme. The report states that “in all regions, physical exercise should be part of the care offered by the public health service”. Where needed, residents should be “actively referred to physical education guidance” and “the sports and fitness services provided by municipalities and organisations”. That sounds good!

In our own county election themes, we emphasised the importance of seamless service chains. This means that when a physician from a wellbeing service country recommends that a resident try out a form of exercise that would suit them, this person can be directed to the sports and fitness services of their school, if they happen to be a higher education student. Service chains are central for ensuring that when a student receives a referral from the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) for special health care, the cooperation flows well between FSHS and the wellbeing services county, and the student's care continues without any interruptions or unnecessary hassle.

We trust the political parties to take care of these matters, as stated in the report on sport policy, which they themselves approved: “ensuring the creation of a seamless service chain for physical education guidance that connects the municipality, the region and the different service providers.” The programme of the current government also commits to the measures set out in the report.

At OLL, we are monitoring the progress being made within the wellbeing services counties and the county councils towards our objectives.

Niko Peltokangas

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