Local Government Awarded Top Walk4Health Team
Increased energy and vitality is one of the spin-offs of regular exercise and this exuberance was indeed tangible at the Walk4Health awards evening held at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) on 25 November 2013. Amidst cheers of support and admiration - the Department of Local Government received top honours as the winning team in the Walk4Health challenge; with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport in second place and the Department of Education in third place.
The Western Cape’s Walk4Health pilot challenge, to promote healthy lifestyles in the province through increased physical activity and healthy eating, came to an end on 15 November 2013.
Western Cape Government Health donated R5 000 for every participating government team to a Walk4Health charity fund. The departmental teams each nominated a charity of their choice to whom the fund will be donated should their team win. Since Rape Crisis was the charity nominated by the Department of Local Government - they received R65 000. As SSISA’s brand ambassador and MC for the evening, the charismatic Africa Melane pointed out: “Today is the start of the 16 days of campaigning for an end to violence against women – so there couldn’t be a more worthy recipient of this donation.”
Other category prize winners:
- Top walker (based on total steps taken): Gavilin Darries (Department of Agriculture) accumulated an unbelievable 1 272 578 steps.
- Top improver (based on the pre- and post-assessments): Anton Bredell, Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. He dropped nearly 9kg, lost 7cm around his waist and his fitness improved by 48%.
- Top individual performer in a four-member team (based on personal targets): Mymoena Kherekar (Department of Community Safety).
The pilot project was endorsed by the Provincial Cabinet and entailed a 6-week interdepartmental pedometer challenge, which started on 4 October, involving all departments within Western Cape Government. Each of these departments were represented by a four-member team; comprising the Premier or the respective minister, head of department or senior manager, an employee and an intern.
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, blood glucose resting pulse and a 12-minute motion test conducted by experts at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA). Based on the results, the SSISA experts prescribed individualised weekly steps targets for each team member, which was stretched incrementally every week during the challenge.
Team members were also provided with pedometers to wear on a daily basis to count their steps and help them achieve their respective personalised step targets. The readings were recorded and points awarded accordingly - one point was awarded when reaching a personal target and a bonus point was granted when adequately stretching beyond the target.
A confidential post-challenge health and physical assessment was conducted by the SSISA experts – so giving each participant an updated health profile on the e|Care portal and determining the category winners.
In his message to the audience, the Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said: “Preventable diseases are the majority cause of death of our people in the Western Cape. That is why we have to change from an ill society to a well society. That is what we mean when we talk of creating wellness. The participation of the provincial cabinet in the Walk4Health Challenge demonstrates our commitment to this objective.”
A recent Western Cape Government Health report shows that the top ten causes of mortality in the Western Cape are:
- HIV/AIDS 13.2%
- TB 8.6%
- Interpersonal violence 8.3%
- Ischaemic heart disease 5.2%
- Road injuries 5.1%
- Diabetes 4.6%
- Cerebrovascular disease 4.5%
- Lower respiratory infections 3.9%
- Trachea/bronchi/lung disease 3.5%
- Chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease
“These diseases account for 21% of deaths in the province. It is really important to take the Walk4Health message to heart and take a walk, if at all possible.”
- The Walk4Health initiative; a partnership between Western Cape Government, the Sport Science Institute of South Africa, the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, ICAS\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 challenge forms part of the Provincial Strategic Objective of increasing wellness.
- The partners all share the same vision of promoting a culture of health and wellness.
- Promoting healthy lifestyles is a major priority for Western Cape Government Health, in order to prevent and successfully reduce the burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) 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.