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Overcoming disparities in organized physical activity: findings from Australian community strategies

02 Sep 2016

Organized physical activity through sport and recreational activities is beneficial for physical and psychosocial well-being and community connectedness. However, many who could gain significantly from this have lower participation, especially the socioeconomically disadvantaged, Indigenous people, culturally diverse communities and people with a disability. This study examined barriers to participation by these underserved groups and the success of strategies for overcoming these used in 22 community projects over 3 years in the VicHealth Participation in Community Sport and Recreation Program, in Victoria, Australia. Each year, in-depth interviews were undertaken with 50–60 activity providers and 30–40 project partners. Major barriers to participation were cost, lack of transport, cultural differences, the environment of sporting groups and inaccessible facilities for people with disabilities. Projects that overcame these selected one or two priority groups, put significant effort into communication and building partnerships with community organizations, provided training to staff and volunteers and created new or modified forms of activity. Strategies were put in place to reduce cost and provide transport, but these did not appear to be sustainable. Many organizations found engaging the underserved was more difficult than anticipated and require information and support about how to develop acceptable, accessible and flexible opportunities for disadvantaged groups. Cost and lack of transport are persistent barriers to participation that need to be addressed by the sport and recreation sector and policy-makers.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Health Promotion International