06 March 2007

Corporate SA in bad health

fewer than 15 percent of SA’s corporate employees are reaching their dietary requirements for fruit and vegetable consumption and 20 percent are smoking, a survey finds.

fewer than 15 percent of SA’s corporate employees are reaching their dietary requirements for fruit and vegetable consumption and 20 percent are smoking, according to Preliminary research, conducted for Discovery Vitality under the auspices of UCT’s Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.

Data was analysed from corporate wellness days conducted by Vitality in 15 companies, representing several sectors including: engineering, logistics, consulting, information technology, manufacturing, academic, financial and transport.

Results were disturbing
“The results were disturbing. While South Africa’s corporate sector is relatively young, it leads an unhealthy life on the whole. Put another way, the average employee has a higher ‘risk-related age’, compared to their actual chronological age,” Discovery Vitality said in a press release.

The researchers considered various behavioural aspects such as: smoking, physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake, as well as observable clinical measures like blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and height. Claims data for Discovery Health members were also used.

Fewer than 15 percent of employees surveyed were reaching their dietary requirements for fruit and vegetable consumption, and 20 percent of those surveyed also reported smoking.

88 percent were not meeting even minimal recommended levels of daily health-enhancing physical activity. Only 12 percent of participants were accumulating 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“Global data shows the risk of death from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, strokes and respiratory problems, is on the rise,” said Professor Vicki Lambert from the University of Cape Town. “However, these risks can be significantly reduced by changing one’s behaviour, and specifically, lifestyle choices. These choices include an abundance of fruit and vegetables in the diet (strive for five), regular physical activity (aim for 10 000 steps per day) and stopping smoking.”

20% have high cholesterol
Clinical risks were also apparent, with nearly 20 percent of participants above the risk cut off level for cholesterol. Similar patterns emerged for blood pressure and hypertension and overweight.

All is not doom and gloom though, says Lambert. “We found a willingness among those with unhealthy lifestyles to address these problems,” she said. For instance, some 56% of smokers said they would like to quit smoking within six months of participating in the wellness day.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of employees who fell below the 150 minutes of physical activity a week would like to become more active.

“There is thus no doubt that if companies engaged in programmes to help employees quit smoking, eat better and exercise more, that there would be a positive response from the employees.”

The next big question is whether companies would stand to benefit from these programmes. Discovery Vitality’s, Dr Craig Nossel feels sure this is the case.

“Our feedback from companies is that once they know the risk profiles of their employees, health promotion programmes can easily reduce absenteeism, enhance the company’s image, raise motivation levels and productivity, and therefore have a positive impact on the bottom line,” he said. – (Discovery Vitality)

Source: Press release from Discovery Vitality

Read more:
Focus on corporate wellness
Stop smoking Centre

March 2007


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