Photo by Radek Čepelák

Šebek: Let’s support children sporting, it will benefit society

I am convinced that sport and physical activity in general is a very important factor in prevention, which can save the government a lot of money in the long run. Ondřej Šebek, the chairman of the National Sports Agency (NSA), said this at the conference of the Healthcare Daily titled Economics of Prevention. In his lecture, he recalled the warning figures proving that young Czechs in particular desperately need to be more moving and presented the tools his agency is using to develop sport in the country.

Ondřej Šebek reminded that sport and physical activities help to improve the quality of life and contribute to prevention in many forms. „The key is physical fitness, i.e. endurance and strength. I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of doctors who have confirmed that as long as a person has muscles, he or she is self-sufficient. That is why it is extremely important to promote the fitness parameters of the population and, thanks to this, minimize the possibility of healthy people becoming patients,“ Šebek told the conference. Besides, he said, sport is also very important for establishing social relations, especially among young people. “Sport also increases moral qualities and has a positive effect on mental health,“ Šebek added.

Participants of the first session of the Economics of Prevention conference entitled Prevention of health risks – interplay or mismatch of actors (from left): Petr Neužil, head of the cardiology department at the Homolka Hospital, Marian Hajdúch, director of the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of Palacký University in Olomouc, Michal Špaňár, CEO of the Slovak Union Health Insurance Company, Ondřej Šebek, chairman of the National Sports Agency, Ivo Hartmann, publisher of Zdravotnický deník and moderator of the discussion, and Ales Rod, member of the National Economic Council of the Government.

Warning numbers in children

The Czechs – and especially the young – clearly need sport and exercise, as the chairman of the National Sports Agency has also documented with some warning figures. He pointed out that eight percent of children under the age of 15 are obese, but only one in five children meets the WHO requirement of 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Moreover, research by the Czech School Inspectorate has shown that the fitness of Czech children has deteriorated significantly, with more than half of them reaching critical levels in endurance. „This is a consequence of the covid pandemic, but above all of the current lifestyle, which is very much linked to the consumption of virtual content,“ says Šebek, who agrees with other conference speakers – such as former hockey goalkeeper Dominik Hašek – that two hours of physical education in schools is not enough.

Sport and physical activity are important at any age, Šebek reminded. And he pointed out that the Czech healthcare system is struggling with the increase in chronic patients with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity and is spending huge amounts of money on their treatment, amounting to tens of billions of crowns. „The government would save money by making much more use of sport in prevention. The government’s investment in sport, as well as the investment of parents in their children’s sporting activities, is definitely meaningful and in the long term such investments have very significant benefits for the whole society,“ Šebek said.

The audience at the Health Economics of Prevention conference often engaged in the discussions with interesting questions.

Focused on sports in clubs

The National Sports Agency (NSA), where Ondřej Šebek works, was established three years ago. Today, it is the highest administrative authority in the country, whose main agenda is sport. „Previously, this was not the case; the management of sport was under the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, for which sport was not always the main priority. So the sporting environment perceives the creation of our office positively, even though we are still fighting for our place in the Sun,“ Šebek introduced his institution. The NSA falls directly under the Prime Minister and has two main agendas – subsidies and conceptual. „Our ambition is not just to be a ‚money-distributing hub‘, but we want to be an institution that works with other bodies that can support the development of sport. At the same time, we also want to prepare various concepts and programmes,“ Šebek explained.

Olympic hockey player Dominik Hašek (right) during a discussion with Slovak MP Richard Rashi.

„We try to distribute operating funds across the entire sport, so we support large sports associations, umbrella sports organizations and, last but not least, all-sports organizations such as Sokol, Orel and others. We support the organisation of sporting events and sporting clubs. This is what I consider most important in terms of prevention,“ Šebek said. The NSA also tries to develop and build sports infrastructure through investment grants, both for top-level sports and for sports for the general public. As part of its conceptual work, the agency seeks to coordinate state institutions, to combat risk factors in sport, such as doping, to submit long-term plans and to cooperate internationally.

Šebek considers the NSA’s My Club programme to be a key grant challenge. „Through that, we really support all clubs that are educating youth and doing some kind of training and competitive activity,“ Šebek outlined the agency’s key programme. This is for all sports, all regions and clubs large and small. More than seven thousand clubs benefit from it and the volume of funds paid out in it is about two billion crowns a year.

A discussion between Ondřej Šebek (right), Chairman of the National Sports Agency, and Ales Rod, member of the National Economic Council of the Government.

At the conference, the NSA chairman also stressed that he believes sport in the Czech Republic has been underfunded for a long time. „All sports stakeholders agree on this. This is despite the fact that 1.2 million people in our country are registered athletes, four million citizens are active in sport and 75 percent of Czechs are interested in sport at the time of top events,“ Šebek mentioned.

Jakub Němec

Photo by Radek Čepelák

We would like to thank the General Health Insurance Company, National Sports Agency, RBP, Health Insurance Company of the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic, Military Health Insurance Company, EUC Medical Group and Sprinx for their support of the conference.

There was a friendly atmosphere at the conference. From left: the Director of VZP Zdeněk Kabátek, the Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek, a member of the Health Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic and former Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Richard Raši and the famous hockey goalkeeper Dominik Hašek.
The conference was also attended by rock climber and four-time world champion Adam Ondra. Pictured here during a roundtable discussion with the editor-in-chief of the Healthcare Daily Tomáš Cikrt.
The second panel of the Economics of Prevention conference was entitled Prevention of health risks – theory versus practice. From left: chairman of the Oncology Clinic of the 1st Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University in Prague Luboš Petruželka, deputy of VZP for client services Ivan Duškov, football goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík, Slovak Chief Hygienist Ján Mikas, president of the Polish Society for Public Health Andrzej Mariusz Fal and director of the National Institute of Public Health Barbora Macková.