The LAFC Foundation announced that it would team with the USC Institute for Global Health to help improve health in Mexico, Ethiopia and the Middle East through community soccer programs. The Foundation will build soccer fields and establish leagues that promote physical activity, and draw families to social and healthcare services. USC will assess current programs, identify factors that lead to poor health in communities and recommend solutions. Together, the organizations will engage community leaders and others wielding influence to spur awareness, so that programming will reach as many people as possible. They will invest in educational resources, and in curriculum and campaigns for promoting healthier lifestyles. The programs themselves will include nutrition education and disease prevention through a healthy, active lifestyle, although their exact make-up will vary by area.
Many impoverished, urban communities in Mexico suffer from high rates of diabetes, a disease linked to poor eating habits and lack of exercise. Ethiopia and parts of the Middle East are facing high rates of chronic and infectious diseases. Many of these ailments would be preventable through better nutrition and increased physical activity. Concurrently, Ethiopia has in recent years built 20 universities and many schools. But the country still lacks facilities for recreation. LAFC is already committed to build a field in the city of Mekelle, in northern Ethiopia. The field, rimmed by a running track, will serve as a community magnet. Area residents will be able to access drinkable water, healthy foods and health and educational information.
The LAFC Foundation is careful in its selection of partners. It seeks organizations and individuals with a record of addressing issues linked to poverty and conflict. The directors of the USC Institute for Global Health, professors Jonathan Samet and Heather Wipfli, are widely respected researchers on global health issues. Dr. Samet is an expert on chronic disease and environmental health research and control. He has worked extensively in Latin America and Asia. Professor Wipfli directed international projects for the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at Johns Hopkins University. “We see great promise in this partnership,” said Don Sheppard, the LAFC Foundation’s founder and president. “We look forward to building programs that can reverse tragic health trends that have existed for decades in these parts of the world. We believe that the fields that LAFC builds open doors and change lives.”