SLOfit as a policy-making tool

How can SLOfit be of use to drive positive public health outcomes?

The ability for SLOfit to detect near real-time analysis of population health in children (and now in adults) enables the timely identification of both positive and negative trends in the fitness status of individuals and groups at the national level, which enables us to plan and introduce adequate policies and interventions based on real-world scenarios.

One example of the rapid response of SLOfit was when the research group documented the largest decline in physical efficiency after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. SLOfit testing found the largest increase in obesity, and largest decrease in overall child fitness levels in Slovenian children in the 30+ history of monitoring. These results were ascribed to the direct consequences of government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections. In September 2020, we proposed various measures to reduce these adverse health effects, which are presented below. These measures and strategies are based on published scientific findings, and previously successful public health solutions. 

With the COVID-19 SLOFIT Barometer, we continue to draw attention to the extremely harmful consequences of restriction measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections on the physical fitness of children and youth, and to implement proposals to limit these negative health consequences. Read below or click the link to read more about our SLOfit BAROMETER system.

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1. Re-launch the Healthy lifestyle national intervention programme. SLOfit researchers are demanding an immediate re-launch of previously well-proven ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ intervention programme which substantially increased child motor efficiency, decreased prevalence of obesity and lowered class absenteeism due to illness. 

2. Joint teaching of PE by a PE specialist and the classroom teacher. More frequent and better-quality PA should be provided to young students from grades 1 to 5. Introducing additional joint-teaching PE classes would increase the frequency of PA and its intensity with PE teacher competencies, including lower students numbers per teacher. 

3. Active recess. All schools should be mandated to provide at least a 20-minutes of active recess each day, preferably outdoors, to all students. During recess, schools should respect the current restrictions on maintaining physical distance, e.g. school “bubble” groups. 

4. Reduce PE class sizes. Large differences in motor performance require appropriate differentiation in PE classes, for groups involving children with special needs, health and developmental problems, as well as individual approaches. Thus, changes from current norm of 20 children per PE class should be reduced to 16, to enable better quality teaching, greater safety and less possibility of virus transmission. 

5. Physically active teaching for all subjects. Teachers should be encouraged, and educated to, abandon the prevailing, sedentary style of learning and adopt appropriate movement in for all learning contents.  

6. Outdoor classrooms. Schools should incorporate outdoor learning strategies into the classroom in order to increase exposure to green spaces, physical activity, vitamin D and the positive benefits such exposures exude. Instead of focusing on training teachers for on-line classes, emphasise should be on how to deliver course content efficiently outdoors. 

7. Establish interventions to treat children with obesity and low motor efficiency. Based on previous experience from pilot projects, and in cooperation with the school and health sector, diagnosing children with obesity and poor physical fitness for national intervention programmes must be a national priority. 

8. Ensure access to children’s playgrounds. Playgrounds should remain open even in the event of an epidemic declaration, with special conditions of use (e.g. play within household members, disinfect hands before using equipment, etc.). 

9. Maintain access to gyms and other indoor sport facilities. Management of sport premises should ensure open access to school and out-of-school users and describe under which special conditions people can be allowed to use them. 

10. Ensure operation of sport programmes. There should be no lockdown of sport programmes. The government, in cooperation with Slovenian Olympic Committee, should enable sport programmes to continue by determining conditions for safe practice. 

11. The Intervention Act. Secure legal framework and finances to ensure the proposed countermeasures are adopted at the state and local level in Slovenia.