Dr. Cheri Blauwet, the seven-time Paralympic medallist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, says society needs a universal vision when it comes to viewing sport and health promotion in her keynote address at the VISTA 2017 Conference this morning in Toronto.
Sports scientists and researchers from around the world are in Toronto to provide a forum for exchange on current information, expertise on Paralympic sport and the Paralympic Movement.
The theme of Blauwet’s presentation was: More Than Just A Game : The Public Health Impact of Sport and Physical Activity for Individuals with an Impairment.
The lecture emphasized the importance of engaging all people with an impairment, from the grassroots to up through elite, in sport as a means of promoting population health.
‘’I capitalized 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% of our global population are individuals with an impairment. That’s one billion people.
Dr. Blauwet says 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 sledge hockey, they think it’s cool, they don’t see barriers,’’ said Blauwet. ‘’There are sledge hockey teams now with able-bodied players. It helps fill out teams and makes more competition.’’
Blauwet emphasized that her audience need 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,’’ she said. ‘’We need 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, Sept. 23.
For more information: www.vista2017.com
Photo: Dan Galbraith / VISTA 2017