The cross-border German-Netherlands action project

The cross-border German-Netherlands action project Healthy Children in Sound Communities [Gesunde Kinder in gesunden Kommunen or Gezonde kinderen in gezonde kinderomgeving (g k g k)] has a very special history. It addresses a number of the WGI’s recommendations that were stated in a ten-point catalogue in the final report of the (2004) EU study Young people’s physical activity and sedentary lifestyles and also recommended in 2005 in Luxembourg at the EU Sports Ministers conference as prospective actions for the future promotion of movement and sport for Europe’s children and young people. In 2004 and 2005 these activities led to an initial contact between the WGI and the Netherlands Institute for Sport and Movement (NISB). Two initial joint conferences were subsequently held in Arnheim and Velen in cooperation with the European Academy of Sport in Velen (eads) (February 2006, May 2006), to which representatives of sporting organisations in North Rhine-Westphalia and the Netherlands (LandesSportBund NRW; Gelderse Sportfederatie) and representatives of communities near the German-Netherlands border were invited. The basic principles and ideas behind the project were introduced and discussed.

The first community that chose to focus its school, sport and health policy on the project and joined together with representatives of its local schools and sports clubs to found a  Round Table Network was the municipality of Velen (2006). With the notable support of its then mayor, Ralf Groß-Holtick, Velen was the first g k g k community to implement, after appropriate preparations at the round table and discussions with and the cooperation of the WGI, a two-year pilot project (2007/2008) in five primary school classes. The execution of this pilot project was scientifically monitored, and led to the conclusion that a three-hour sport lesson that accentuates health aspects and provides for one hour per week of targeted individual support in small groups (differentiated third sport lesson), plus the development of an animated school with regular daily sport during break times, can lead to improved physical (BMI) and motoric development (basic competence) in as little as half a school year and also promotes the behavioural profile for an active school route. This pilot phase was sponsored by the community and eads under a Euregio project.

In March 2007, during this pilot project, initial discussions were held with the management of Euregio-Rhein-Waal in Kleve. Other towns and communities in the border regions also expressed interest in the g k g k project idea. In May 2007 this idea was explained to the community representatives of the Euregio council in Moers and subsequently to doctors and other members of the health committee at Euregio Rhine-Waal. The response from local politicians and the agreement of the health committee were positive in view of the numerous health studies and practical reports in the Netherlands and Germany relating to increased sedentariness, overweight and obesity in children and young people. Finally, in 2008, the WGI’s continued joint discussions with its partners in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Netherlands and with the management of Euregio Rhine-Waal and its partners led to an application for a four-year intervention project at primary schools in six German and six Netherlands communities, covering school districts from Enschede (Twente) to Cuijk (Noord Brabant) and from Velen (Borken district) to Moers (Wesel district). In a communication dated 15 May 2009, the regional administration in Münster, in its capacity as approval authority for the Operational Programme Interreg IV A Germany – Netherlands, approved the project for 2008 to 2011.

In addition to our Netherlands partners (Sportraat Gelderland, Sportraat Noord Brabant, NISB, Gelderse Sportfederatie, Sportfederatie Noord Brabant) the following partners and sponsors from NRW will be participating in this main study: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, Interior Ministry/ dept. for Sport, LandesSportBund NRW, NRW Accident Fund, the state association of company health insurance providers for NRW (BKK) and eads.

Since the launch of the main study in the autumn of 2008, round tables have been set up in all the participating communities. One particular feature of these local networks is that they are each supported and encouraged by a community moderator who negotiates and co-ordinates specific offers and enquiries regarding lessons and extracurricular measures between the participating schools, their partner sporting associations and the various offices of the community administration (school, youth welfare, sport, health). At the WGI these twelve community moderators find support for their needs and demands by specific collaborators who join with them as a team to plan, organise and implement local project management of the individual measures, including the training and further education of specialist teachers and the subsequent evaluation of the interventions.

Here, too, the cooperation partners of the sports clubs and trainers in the g k g k project are the sport federations and their regional and local partners (e.g. LSB NRW, town and district sport federations), all of whom maintain close contact with their community moderators, or, in some communities, occupy that position themselves.

In NRW, 18 schools with ca. 1000 children from six communities are currently participating in the project. In the Netherlands more schools are involved, but with roughly the same number of children. The project’s specific targets for the furtherance of an active lifestyle are these: activity periods of 60-90 minutes every day, behavioural changes in favour of an active lifestyle, involving promoting basal motoric development and reducing overweight, joint planning and networking of three hours’ school sport per week, with two additional sport units as extracurricular offers from sports clubs, plus a variety of other offers: active school routes by means of “walking buses”, a weekly lesson of personal and social education focusing on nutrition, movement and health promotion, and numerous other extracurricular measures such as healthy breakfast, school fruit, courses in cooking and sport offered during breaks.

Since receiving the notification of a grant (for project number EAC/21/2009/033) from the Brussels EU Sport Unit in November 2009, the local g k g k network concept for the promotion of an active lifestyle has been rolled out in other parts of Europe. In the summer of 2009 a pan-European consortium was set up under the leadership of German Sport Youth (dsj) and in cooperation with ENGSO Youth, which had responded to an EU invitation to tender (preparatory work) for the usual sporting subsidies by applying for a grant for a project scheduled to begin in 2010, entitled Healthy children in sound communities (HCSC). The WGI is a partner of German Sport Youth (dsj) and is supporting this project, in which national youth sport associations and scientific institutes from four other EU countries will also be participating. Two communities from the Netherlands will take part under the leadership of the NISB, and two from other German states (Osnabrück in Lower Saxony and Darmstadt in Hesse) in cooperation with the youth sport divisions of their local sports federations. From the German health sector, the partners’ company health insurance providers and their local offices are also involved as partners and sponsors. Communal networks mirrored on those of the g k g k communities are also planned for the UK, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic.