MeWeSports: Using sport to prevent substance use
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In India, Sangath and Pro Sport Development are working to design and pilot an innovative programme that uses sports-based approaches to prevent substance use and improve mental health in adolescents.


Sangath’s Addictions Research Group (ARG) initiated the MeWeSports programme to work with adolescents, using sports-based approaches to prevent the initiation of substance use, while also improving their mental health and well-being.

Sangath aims to develop a comprehensive and evidence-based programme which can be tested for local and national implementation, using a sports agnostic approach to increase its applications and relevance across different settings in the country. Given the lack of a comprehensive national response to the growing problem of alcohol, tobacco and drug use among young people, the programme comes at a crucial time.

Though various research studies have suggested a positive impact of sport and physical activity on mental health, most of the research and interventions in this area have been restricted to the Global North. The shared understanding of sport being an effective medium to tackle issues of mental health and the need for such interventions in India is what led to the collaboration between Sangath and Pro Sport Development (PSD) in 2021.

Inputs from diverse stakeholders

As part of their systematic research processes to developing the MeWeSports programme, Sangath has attempted to gather data using multiple methods including qualitative work and surveys with young people, parents, and experts to understand the scope and extent of problems related to adolescent substance use, and priorities that should underlie prevention efforts.

Various stakeholders and experts have been consulted to inform and provide context to the intervention, including family and community members, a youth advisory board, as well as sport for development, mental health, and adolescent health experts.

PSD has been assisting Sangath in various sports-related aspects of the programme development. In the second half of 2021, PSD and Sangath organised a workshop in New Delhi, which brought together practitioners from the sport for development sector across India, along with Sangath’s youth leaders. The two-day workshop provided practical and contextual insights from the sport for development sector with regards to intervention components, using sport to achieve specific outcomes and the ideal delivery agents for such an intervention.

Sport for development advisory group

PSD and Sangath also created a sport for development advisory group, comprising of select members from the sector in India. This advisory group has been conducting regular online meetings to further give shape to the intervention.

Earlier this month, the advisory group met in-person for a two-day workshop in Goa, at Sangath’s head office. As part of this workshop, the advisory group was able to make the intervention more concise and feasible for implementation. This included shortlisting activities that could be implemented, building a timeline for the intervention, drafting, and reworking the theory of change, as well as discussing contextual and practical elements vital for the success of the intervention.

Next steps

In the following months, the MeWeSports team hopes to hold a workshop with global adolescent health experts to get feedback on the intervention developed so far, after which the PSD and Sangath teams will move towards preparing an intervention manual. This will serve as a comprehensive guide to help organisations implement the programme on-ground.

Once the intervention manual is developed, the programme will be piloted in Goa as well as other parts of India, in order to evaluate its effectiveness, applicability across geographies and contexts as well as propensity to implement at scale


Pro Sport Development