Log out
My profile and settings
My bookmarks
Comment history
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
today
This verification token has expired.
today
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
today
Your account has been deactivated. Sign in to re-activate your account.
today
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
today
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
today
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
today
0
0
Back to profile
Comment Items
You have not left any comments yet.
title
you replied to a comment:
name
description
Saved Posts
You haven’t bookmarked any posts yet.
“We tried out some lounge chairs, played with remote-controlled mattresses, and somehow managed to get lost.”
watch video
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Sign up
Log out
Personal Information
Title
Mr
Mrs
Ms
Miss
Mx
Dr
Cancel
Save
This email is already registered
Cancel
Save
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Cancel
Save
Address
Cancel
Save
Email and Notification Settings
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
On
Off
Send me Gates Notes survey emails
On
Off
Send me the weekly Top of Mind newsletter
On
Off
Email me comment notifications
On
Off
On-screen comment notifications
On
Off
Interests
Select interests to personalize your profile and experience on Gates Notes.
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Alzheimer's
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Account Deactivation
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process.
If you would like to permanently delete your Gates Notes account and remove it’s content, please send us a request here.
Game changer
Grassroot Soccer scores a hat trick for African youth
This organization uses the beautiful game to reach millions of young people with lifesaving services.
|
0

I’ve never been much of a soccer fan. (Tennis and pickleball are my favorite sports.) Still, seeing the athleticism and passion on display during the World Cup, I understand why soccer has earned the nickname “the beautiful game.” What makes soccer even more beautiful is the positive impact it can have off the field.

There may be no better example of this than the work of a unique non-profit organization called Grassroot Soccer, which was featured at a health innovation event where I spoke earlier this week.

For the last two decades, Grassroot Soccer has used the incredible popularity of the game to help young people across Africa navigate some of their toughest health challenges.

Despite significant progress in health and development in Africa, including a dramatic decline in child mortality, HIV/AIDS continues to be a leading cause of death among youth in Africa. Sexual violence threatens the health and safety of girls. A lack of access to contraceptives contributes to high rates of teen pregnancy. And mental health services are often unavailable.

Solving these challenges is difficult—and especially important given that 60 percent of Africans are under the age of 25. So, how can soccer make a difference?

Because it’s so popular, soccer offers a hook to capture the attention of young people. Grassroot Soccer uses the game to involve them in activities that encourage them to live healthier, more productive lives.

Here’s one simple example. In an activity called “Risk Field,” players are asked to dribble a soccer ball through cones labeled with some of the risky behaviors that young people often encounter, such as unprotected sex, HIV, multiple partners, and alcohol.

The local youth who serve as Grassroot Soccer coaches are a critical component of the program. Trained in basic counseling skills, the coaches play an important role as trusted mentors to the young participants.

The coaches also accompany adolescents to clinics where they can get HIV testing, contraceptives, and other services. (In some countries, young people might be turned away because of their age or criticized by health staff for seeking contraceptives and testing. The coaches serve as advocates to support their right to health services.) Coaches also conduct home visits to talk with parents and guardians about their programs and health services.

Founded in 2002 by Dr. Tommy Clark, a pediatrician and former professional soccer player, Grassroot Soccer initially focused on stopping the spread of HIV. (The Gates Foundation was an early funder of its work.) Today the organization works in more than 60 countries and has reached more than 18 million young people.

Studies have shown that its participants had better access to sexual and reproductive health services, were more likely to stick with their HIV treatment, and were less likely to experience depression.

That kind of impact gives everyone, even casual soccer fans like me, something to cheer about.

Read this next
NEXT