24 July 2017

[BLOG] I heart sport!: How NGOs & private companies can develop sustainable partnerships in preventing NCDs.

By Loredana Poenaru, Senior Program Manager—JA Romania

Last month I was invited to participate in a workshop on introductory advocacy and practical strategies for the inclusion of children, adolescents, and young people in country-level non-communicable disease (NCD agendas). During the event, which gathered medical and civil society representatives, as a representative of Junior Achievement (JA) Romania, I presented on our signature initiative, “I <heart> sport”I <heart> sport”, as a successful model of “advocating by doing” and sustainable public-private partnership.


It is always rewarding to be in a room filled with like-minded individuals who have a shared vision on the role of education in raising awareness, changing attitudes, and changing lives. But as a young person working in the field, it is equally fulfilling to share an example to show great things are achievable if putting together vision, expertise, network and financial support. In this case, the example is “I <heart> sport”—a program I not only work for, but one I truly believe in.


Romania, like many countries, has a high rate of deaths caused by NCDs and no integrated strategy and a national plan to address this program. While there is much to be done at the government level, we cannot overlook the work of Romania’s citizens—through NGOs, private sector, schools, etc.  To advance our country’s lagging efforts, NGOs in partnership with private companies, have developed specific initiatives to educate young people and to empower teachers, as influencers, with tools and expertise in communicating the importance of prevention.


The “I <heart> sport” initiative, developed by AstraZeneca, as part of its global community investment initiative, Young Health Programme (YHP), in partnership with Junior Achievement Romania, is an example of such a model.  It aims to provide Romanian teens and youngsters with modern health education tools.


Within this collaborative project, “I <heart> sport” was the first integrated, practical approach to national health education through:

  • Formal education: an educational kit was developed for teachers implementing activities regarding prevention, nutrition and sport. The educational kit including teacher’s guidebook and student’s workbook were designed starting from the Romanian curricula for optional courses (upon teachers and students interests and decision) and have been provided for free based on AstraZeneca’s financial support within YHP.
  • Non-formal education: students and teachers were encouraged to organize I <heart> sport clubs and challenged to participate in national competitions promoting sports and physical activity, nationwide.


After five years of I <heart> sport programme rollout and over 50 000 teens involved, we still believe that best advocacy is by doing, significant changes are possible by public-private co-working and best educating is by integrated approach that empowers young people as leaders promoting a healthy lifestyle.



Photo Courtesy of JA Romania