Wednesday 16 August 2023, 11:30

Awareness and education in the spotlight as FIFA focus on heart health

  • FIFA has collaborated with Australian-based ‘Heartbeat of Football’ with a stand designed to promote heart health at the Sydney/Gadigal FIFA Fan Festival™

  • The booth offers fans a free check-up and receive critical first aid training in the event of a cardiac arrest

  • Part of an upcoming FIFA campaign to raise awareness of heart health across of all levels of football globally

FIFA is promoting heart health during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ with cardiac health one of four main health pillars for football’s world governing body. FIFA is operating a stand during the Sydney/Gadigal FIFA Fan Festival™ in conjunction with Australian-based not-for-profit organisation Heartbeat of Football. Supporters can have their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol checked for free with results delivered on the spot. There is also an interactive hands-on demonstration for fans to receive critical first aid training in how to respond to someone suffering a cardiac arrest.

FIFA’s support of the booth comes ahead of a planned heart health awareness programme rolled out to all 211 FIFA member associations. “From a FIFA perspective we look at this as the first stage of our “Heart Heroes” programme. It is about raising awareness and educating people, and the next stage of that is bringing that to every competition that we [FIFA] organise,” said Andy Massey, FIFA Medical Director. “That means aligning with those [hosting] countries so that we can give educational programmes to 8-11 year olds so that they learn what heart health is about. “Our ultimate goal of the Heart Heroes programme is to teach people how to treat emergencies on the pitch and have a defibrillator present at every football pitch no matter what the level is.”

The booth at the FIFA Fan Festival also offers a SiSU Health Station which measures multiple dynamics such as susceptibility to diabetes. Also on hand are representatives from ‘Response For Life’ which offer CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) sessions for anyone. “This is a one-stop shop and it's a lovely, unique model that we want the world to share because together, and united as one, we can make a big difference in the cardiovascular space,” said Heartbeat of Football founder and media personality Andy Paschalidis. “The greatest joy here is the fact that for the very first time we've tested more women than men so we've got the gender balance right. “It's important that people understand their health and wellbeing and hopefully this makes people think at the very least, ‘I should come over and get a check-up and see what my numbers show’. It’s important because we're dealing with the biggest killer in society and football is the biggest game so we can make a real stand here.”

Dr Massey added that spreading the message of heart health is a core focus for FIFA. “If we can raise awareness to prevent something happening, then that is the ultimate goal of medicine,” he said. “Of course emergencies happen, and whilst we can’t necessarily predict when these will occur, we must be ready to recognise and manage them, to ensure best outcomes. You do not need to be a medical professional to treat a heart attack but you need to be able to recognise it and treat it straight away. The sooner you treat it, the higher the chances of survival. “Awareness of medical emergencies always spikes when there is a high profile case. Elite football is the 2 per cent, so we have 98 per cent of park football we don’t hear about. This intiative is being used to help prepare the people watching the grassroots and youth football. “Defibrillators are so easy to use now, you can’t go wrong. The worst thing you can do is do nothing. It’s all about awareness and education.”

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