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January 28, 2024
Organized sport is often positioned as a remedy for the many health issues that Indigenous Peoples face. While there are many benefits to sports participation, overstating those benefits risks obscuring the systemic problems they endure in trying to create their own visions for health.
While research indicates that encouraging youth to be engaged in sport and physical activity is essential for improving health outcomes, the relationship between sport participation and health in Indigenous communities is not so simple.
For instance, a recent literature review by the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health calls attention to a significant policy problem: Indigenous youth are more physically active than non-Indigenous youth, and yet they self-report poorer health outcomes.
This illustrates why using sport participation as a policymaking lodestar for affecting positive health outcomes is troublesome. Sport has historically failed to address the systemic issues that burden Indigenous Peoples and their communities. To address these deep-seated issues, a more comprehensive and culturally grounded approach to sport policy is needed.