President of the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOC) Urmas Sõõrumaa says that the Estonian sports system needs at least €100 million additionally per year to perform its main task as promoter of public health, and suggested distributing the extra money via a future Health Fund and the defense forces.
"The organization of sports in Estonia needs at least €100 million additionally per year in the near future, the sports budget of the state must double. Half the additional money should go towards disease prevention and health related exercise via the would-be Health Fund. The other half to the school system via the defense forces to develop sportsmanly habits so that the defense forces would not have to transform young men coming from school into men during the brief period of conscript service but could focus on teaching the art of war to the young people during the period of service," Sõõrumaa said.
He said this was important also because of the people who have acquired a habit of physical exercise during their time at school, as much as 80 percent will continue a sportsmanly lifestyle also in their later years. On the other hand, those who fail to acquire a lifelong habit of physical exercise during their school years will see their habits and health deteriorate also in their adult years.
"During the emergency situation sports clubs are closed and their incomes have dwindled to nil, while expenses have not. In my opinion it is extremely regrettable that the government is compensating millions of euros in foregone revenue, but is not supporting sports clubs which are the mainstays of public health -- exercise and sports are the main tools whereby to reduce healthcare expenditures and increase the number of years lived in good health," the head of the EOC said.
He said that while two to three months of restrictions is not a matter of life and death, the collapse of a functioning sports system would be a disaster for public health.
"How many more millions of euros in additional taxes will people living a higher number of years healthily pay into the state budget and how many millions of Health Insurance Fund assets they will not spend, I'm not even talking about here - these amounts are in the hundreds of millions of euros per year," he said.
In Estonia sports activities are financed by the public sector to the extent of 70 percent, with the state and municipalities contributing altogether about 100 million euros. According to Sõõrumaa, that amount has to be doubled.
"Our subsidies for sport are unstable, they do not take into consideration public health and are scrapped as the first thing during difficult times. Only a society in constant motion will stay healthy for a long time and live a long life of fulfillment," Sõõrumaa said.
According to Sõõrumaa, about one-third of the 1,300 deaths that Estonia registers per month could have been adjourned if the people who died had engaged more in exercise and sports during their lives. People's low mobility is one of the main causes of cardiac and cardiovascular illnesses. The ratio of people suffering from these illnesses in Estonia is double the European average ratio according to statistics, whereas the number of years lived healthily is smaller by 10-15 years in Estonia than in the Nordic countries.
"Next virus outbreaks are being predicted already, which will see the people already in poor health suffer the most. Or if they were not, their health will deteriorate as they are looking at the four walls of their homes and waiting for the possibility to get an appointment with a doctor," the head of the EOC said, adding that a new vision is necessary not only in healthcare, but also in the sports policy of Estonia.
Editor: Anders Nõmm