People who suffer from serious mental health problems are shown to have an increased chance of physical illness compared to the general population.

The Butabika Link is working with the Uganda Diaspora Health Foundation to provide physical health training to clinicians in Uganda and offer sporting programmes to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices.

Be Inspired and Get Active mental health football programme to promote physical health in mental health services in Uganda

By Moses Mulimira, Mariam Aligawesa, Joseph Atukunda, Dr David Basangwa and Stan Burnyeat

Globally, a major barrier to the health of people with mental health experiences remains the stigma, social exclusion and negative attitudes attached to mental health problems. People with serious mental health problems continue to have increased rates of physical illness compared to the general population, leading to premature death and reduced life expectancy (Robson and Gray, 2007), (Hardy and Gray 2014).

Given that almost 30% of the population in Uganda experiences a mental health issue at some point in their lives (Kasoro, Sebudde, et al, 2002), it begs a question of why, then, do we find it so hard to talk about something that's so prevalent?

Using football to promote physical health and reduce stigma

Promoting healthy behaviours and lifestyles can help to close the gap in health inequalities, and reduce the burden of avoidable ill health.

To fulfil this potential, two local community-based Ugandan professional football teams Kira Young FC and SC Villa Jogoo have agreed to support an initiative for the implementation of a physical healthcare strategy at Butabika hospital and support the development of physical health projects in local communities and their football fan base.

It is hoped that this collaborative effort of various organisations, including policy makers at local and national level, will help facilitate physical health awareness about NCD's and their prevention among people with mental health problems. This also offers an opportunity to bring in other resources and partnerships which is crucial to the success of the initiative in the long term.

It is also hoped that this initiative will empower service users and advocate for service user involvement in their communities and in mental health care delivery through developed life skills.

Dr David Basangwa the Executive Medical Director of Butabika Hospital has taken a front line lead in ensuring that sport forms part of the recovery and rehabilitation process for those with mental health challenges in Uganda.