Facts About Unhealthy Lifestyles | Western Cape Government


Facts About Unhealthy Lifestyles

2 October 2013

A report drafted by Western Cape Government Health’s Health Promotions Directorate carries a clear message: unhealthy lifestyles are killing us.

The report summarises the burden of disease profile in the province’s six health dixstricts:

  • Cape Metro
  • Cape Winelands
  • Central Karoo
  • Eden
  • Overberg
  • West Coast

It  shows that the top 10 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 obstructive pulmonary disease

These diseases account for 21% of deaths in the province.

The disturbing trend in diabetes is that 50% of the burden are undiagnosed. In the Western Cape there is a higher prevalence of diabetes, 11.2% versus the national 9.5%. The racial breakdown in the Western Cape shows the prevalence as follows:

  • 13.7% of coloureds
  • 8.2% of Africans
  • 8.1% of whites  

Hypertension has increased quite drastically. The figures show an increase from 27.2% in 1998 in women to 42.5% in 2008, and from 25.7% in men in 1998 to 36.5% in 2008.

Trends in obesity risk factors reflect a similar increase in women in the Western Cape.

In addition to these trends, food choices are making it very difficult to eat healthy.

Healthy foods are generally more expensive and processed foods are exceedingly cheap. Supermarkets make healthy foods available but do not display them more prominently.

Advertisements targeted to children are often of unhealthy foods. In townships there is a shortage of healthy low-fat food and little fresh fruit and vegetables. There are perceptions that fried and fast foods are tastier, more "civilised". In addition, there is an exponential growth in the import of unhealthy foods, in particular in refined sugars, eg. bread, pastries, cakes and biscuits. 

Unsafe communities are further contributing to decreased opportunities for physical activity. Children no longer cycle or walk to school, but are transported to school.

The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha says: “It is clear from these figures 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.”

Media Enquiries: 

Hélène Rossouw
Spokesperson for Theuns Botha, Western Cape Minister of Health
Tel: 021 483 4426
E-mail: helene.rossouw@westerncape.gov.za