News Release

Empowering Socially Vulnerable Children: Improved health knowledge and well-being after a 10-week Residential Stay incorporating a Football-Based Health Education Programme

Researchers have unveiled a positive impact on well-being of a 10-week residential stay for 7-14-year-old socially vulnerable children and observed additional effects on health knowledge by adding a football-based health education programme.

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Southern Denmark Faculty of Health Sciences

Children at DSCH Skaelskoer_credit Nikolai Linares.jpeg


Study shows, that a 10-week residential stay at a Danish Charity Home has significant effects on well-being for socially vulnerable girls and boys, both in relation to physical, mental, social, and school-related well-being.

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Credit: Photos: Nikolai Linares

The study, conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, is published in the prestigious Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

Improved physical, mental and social well-being

The study followed more than 600 socially vulnerable children that took part in a 10-week residential stay at two Danish charity homes over a 2-year study period. Through a parallel cohort study, the researchers investigated the effects of the residential stay itself, and whether there are additional effects of adding the football-based health education programme called “11 for Health”.

The children had well-being scores way below national average when they entered the study.

“Our study shows, for the first time, that a 10-week residential stay at a Danish Charity Home has significant effects on well-being for socially vulnerable girls and boys, both in relation to physical, mental, social, and school-related well-being. Actually, the overall well-being was observed to increase to national average during the 10-week intervention,” says Professor Peter Krustrup, who is responsible for the study.

Additional effects of a football-based health education programme

"Another interesting finding is that health knowledge was further improved when adding the 11 for Health football-based health education programme, especially in relation to knowledge on physical activity and the importance of intense physical activity”, continues Peter Krustrup.

The researchers have previously tested the 11 for Health programme in a nationwide implementation for 30,000 children in 400 schools in 92 out of 99 Danish municipalities, with marked positive effects on physical fitness, well-being and health knowledge for 10-13-year-old girls and boys, including children with low physical literacy scores.

The present study showed that the girls and boys at the Christmas Seal Homes took part in 90% of the 11 for Health sessions and that they reported average enjoyment scores of 3.6 using a 1-5 Likert Scale, with similar scores for boys (3.6) and girls (3.5). These scores are similar to the average 11 for Health enjoyment scores in the national implementation study for public and private schools.

“The present study shows that the 11 for Health programme is feasible, enjoyable and effective in increasing health knowledge for socially vulnerable children with low physical literacy. It will be interesting to see whether more knowledge on, and positive experiences with, physical activity, can enhance moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the long-term”, ends Professor Krustrup. 

First author Trine Kjeldgaard Møller will submit her PhD thesis at the University of Southern Denmark in June 2024 (primary supervisor Peter Krustrup, co-supervisor Malte N Larsen), focusing on the combined effects of the 10-wk residential stay at the Christmas Seal Homes and the 11 for Health programme on physical fitness, physical activity, health knowledge, well-being, sleep, and stress. Co-author Kristina Pfeffer, PhD student at University of Southern Denmark, will submit her PhD thesis (primary supervisor Peter Krustrup; co-supervisors Nikos Ntoumanis and Malte Nejst Larsen) in October 2025 about the long-term effects of the Christmas Seal Home intervention.  

For further reading:

Møller TK, Larsen MN, Pfeffer K, Frydenlund SE, Ntoumanis N, Krustrup P. The effects of a combined physical activity and health education program on health knowledge and well-being of socially vulnerable children. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2024 Apr;34(4):e14606.

The paper can be downloaded open access here:

About the study and the Danish Christmas Seal Homes

  • The study evaluates the effects of the 11 for Health programme in the setting of a 10-week residential stay at the Danish Christmas Seal Homes (DSCH) for socially vulnerable children aged 7–14.
  • In the DCSHs, the children and adolescents experience a restructuring of their exercise and diet plans, and participate in initiatives to improve their self-confidence and well-being.
  • DSCHs have existed in Denmark since 1912. There are five DSCHs in different locations across the country, and they receive around 1000 children each year, generally from families with low socioeconomic background, half of whom are overweight.
  • The study is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, TrygFonden, the Augustinus Foundation, and Helsefonden.

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