Western Cape Government Starts Walking Towards Better Health
The Western Cape Government will start walking towards better health from 4 October, with the official start of the Walk4Health. Premier Helen Zille and the rest of the Western Cape Cabinet will be participating in the campaign over the next six weeks.
The purpose of the initiative is to promote healthy lifestyles in the Western Cape through increased physical activity and healthy eating and forms part of the Provincial Strategic Objective of increasing wellness.
The pilot project, which was endorsed by the provincial cabinet, entails a six-week interdepartmental pedometer challenge starting tomorrow involving all departments within Western Cape Government. Each department within Western Cape Government will be represented by a four-member team; comprising the Premier or the respective minister, head of department or senior manager, an employee and an intern; and will be competing head-to-head with each other.
The employee and intern in the respective teams were selected on the condition that they are not engaged in a regular training programme, but are motivated to change their personal lifestyle by increasing their level of physical activity and who are committed to being Wellness Ambassadors during and following the pilot project.
Prior to the start of the challenge, each participant completed a confidential health and physical assessment. The assessment included Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure (BP), cholesterol and blood glucose and resting pulse readings and a 12-minute motion test.
Based on the results, each team member received individualised steps targets, which will be stretched incrementally every week during the challenge.
Each team member was also provided with a pedometer to wear on a daily basis to count their steps and help them achieve their respective personalised step targets. The readings will be recorded and points awarded accordingly – one point will be awarded when reaching a personal target and bonus points will be granted when stretching beyond the target.
Points will be scored to determine each team’s place on the leader board. There will also be an individualised participant leader board, hosted on the e|Care portal, for the various participants to compete against everyone involved in the challenge.
The leader will be announced weekly to enable participants to compare their own progress to that of the other participants and to motivate them to achieve a higher spot on the leader board.
The team-challenge will end on 3 November with the Move for Your Health fun walk, but the individual challenge will end on 15 November 2013. A confidential post-challenge health and physical assessment will be conducted to give each participant an updated health profile on the e|Care portal.
The pilot also includes a wellness ambassadors’ initiative, with the employee and intern participants of each team functioning as the initial wellness ambassadors, that intends to expand and sustain a culture of wellness at and across workplace and community levels.
Physical inactivity is considered a major risk factor for a number of adverse health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other cardio vascular diseases; otherwise known as Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha says: “It is clear from recent figures received that preventable diseases are the majority cause of death of our people in the Western Cape. Not only are these diseases leading to people dying earlier, but it also means that our government’s budget is spent on treating HIV/Aids and diabetes instead of non-preventable diseases such as blindness, disabilities and disorders. Furthermore, at present the largest portion of the Western Cape Government budget is spent on health, and not Education – as should be the case. Lifestyle diseases are killing our budget.
“We cannot continue to provide more health infrastructure and more medication. That is only addressing the results of bad lifestyle habits. As a government we have a responsibility to initiate a lifestyle change so that the money of the people living in the Western Cape can be directed towards skills and training, rather than operations and medicine. We have to change from an ill society to a well society. That is what we mean when we talk of creating wellness.
“In the next few months our government will be making some important announcements to achieve that goal. The participation of the provincial cabinet in the Walk4Health Challenge is one of them.”
The Walk4Health initiative – a partnership between Western Cape Government, the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, HealthInSite e|Care, UCT’s Research Unit for Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics (RUBEN) and ideas42 with additional sponsorship from Discovery Vitality, and Ubuntu Touch – was officially launched by Premier Helen Zille on 1 October 2013 at the Nico Malan Hall, Groote Schuur Hospital.
The partners all share the same vision of promoting a culture of health and wellness.
Western Cape Government Health will donate R5 000 for every participating government team to a Walk4Health charity fund. The winning team will nominate a charity to whom this fund will be donated.
The winning team and top three individual participants will receive awards at the prize-giving ceremony which is scheduled for 25 November 2013.
Promoting healthy lifestyles is a major priority for Western Cape Government Health in order to prevent and successfully reduce the burden of NCDs in the province. In the Western Cape, 17 to 25% of the burden of disease is attributed to NCDs. NCDs also account for more than a third of all deaths in South Africa.
To successfully address this problem, it is critical that every citizen within the province commits themselves to creating a "culture of wellness" in their communities. The participants in the Walk4Health project are grabbing the opportunity to lead by example and encourage commitment from all levels of society.
The Western Cape Government, through the Department of the Premier, has partnered with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and ideas42 for the design of policy interventions based on the principles of behavioural economics. This pedometer challenge forms one of the pilots of the "Changing Behaviour" projects, with the others including interventions in safety, after-school programmes, climate change and intergenerational sex.
This pilot seeks to improve wellness in our society by promoting regular exercise.
Please note that all photographs are to be attributed to Nici Clifton from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.