Western Cape Government Walking Towards Better Health

Theuns Botha, Minister of Health

Western Cape Government

In the Western Cape Government’s Walk4Health Challenge to motivate people to lead a healthier lifestyle through basic behavior changes, the teams with the competitive edge are challenging each other to greater heights.

The teams log their weekly steps into a step tracker.

At the moment the scores of the teams of the largest departments – Agriculture, Health and Education – are leading the ranks, sharing the first ranking. The team of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning are in the second ranking, and sharing the third ranking is the Premier’s office, Provincial Treasury, Transport and Public Works, Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport and Local Government.

In the individual challenges the ranking is not based on total steps achieved but on achievement beyond individual stretch targets.  In the category for the top three performers a Health participant is leading with 125 102 steps per week. An Agriculture participant is in the second place with 193 003 and Community Safety in the third place with 104 204 steps.

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 campaign runs for 6 weeks.

The project entails a 6-week interdepartmental pedometer challenge involving all departments within Western Cape Government. Each department is represented by a four-member team; comprising the Premier or the respective minister, head of department or senior manager, an employee and an intern. They are 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, blood glucose resting pulse and a 12-minute motion test.

Based on the results, each team member received individualized 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 personalized step targets. The readings are recorded and points awarded accordingly – one point is awarded when reaching a personal target and bonus points are granted when stretching beyond the target.

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.

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.”