Disqualification of Sport in Health-Related Promotion of Physical Activity – A Global Social Phenomenon?

Global health organisations exert homogenising pressure on national discourse concerning the promotion of physical activity (PA). Simultaneously, a main feature of the contemporary health-related promotion of PA is the disqualification of sport as a medium of health (Michelini, 2013).
A theoretical framework based on systems theory (Luhmann, 1985) has been used here to explore the pervasiveness of the disqualification of sport in five countries. The empirical analysis examines and compares the content (Mayring, 2003) of 25 documents on the promotion of PA issued by the ministries of health in the USA, Sweden, Germany, France and Italy. These countries are representative of different welfare state typologies (Esping-Andersen, 1990): liberal, Scandinavian and conservative, respectively.
The results show a similarly sport-hostile discourse in conservative and Scandinavian countries, but not in the liberal case study. American strategies are, at least to some extent, more sport-friendly. This does not contradict the existence of an influential global discourse on the promotion of PA which disqualifies sport as a medium of health. For instance, the case studies share much similar content and a common rhetoric. Nevertheless, the case of the USA shows that national health discourses still display some degree of adaptation and dissimilarities. The mechanisms at the root of the differences in national discourse on the health-related promotion of PA constitute a relevant topic for further analyses.