Dr. Cheri Blauwet emphasised the importance of engaging all people with impairment in sport from the grassroots to the elite as a means of promoting population health, in her speech on the second day (21 September) of the eighth VISTA conference, in Toronto, Canada.
USA's seven-time Paralympic medallist and instructor at Harvard Medical School gave a presentation called ‘More than just a Game: The Public Health Impact of Sport and Physical Activity for Individuals with an Impairment.’
“I capitalised on an opportunity to shift from sedentary to an active life in high school,’’ said Blauwet, who was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury at 16 months. ‘’One day, I went to a track meet and saw other teenagers in wheelchair racing. Sport was fun, my health improved.’”
According to the World Health Organisation, up to 15-20 per cent of our global population are individuals with an impairment. That’s one billion people.
Blauwet added that Para sport should be seen as a tool not only for elite competitive opportunities, but also to enhance and enrich opportunities for all individuals with an impairment to lead healthy lifestyles.
“More and more able-bodied people are seeing Para sports like sit-skiing or Para ice hockey and they think it’s cool, they don’t see barriers,’’ she said. ‘’There are Para ice hockey teams now with able-bodied players. It helps fill out teams and makes more competition.’’
Blauwet also said that her audience needs to continue playing a key role in breaking down the barriers for people with impairments.
“Para sport professionals are uniquely qualified to understand the barriers of participation for people with an impairment. We need to keep engaged in research, be powerful community advocates and a trusted source of health and wellness advice.”
The VISTA 2017 conference continues through to Saturday, 23 September.
For more information visit www.vista2017.com