What a wonderful world this could be

Have you ever stopped to think what the world would be like if everyone resorted to eating and living healthily?

Liesl Lebenberg, a trainer with Camelot International Health and Skin Care Institute, posed the question recently as she expressed concern at the current high cost of eating.

To Lebenberg, it is sad and disturbing that people in most countries across the globe are living at a time when living healthily has become a pipe dream for many due to the high cost of healthy eating. She is worried by bad eating habits and lifestyles people now follow which leave the body’s natural defence system unable to fight a host of ailments that manifest in their wake.

“The body cannot fight disease due to bad lifestyles like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercises worsened by not eating correctly,” Lebenberg says.

She stresses that the opposite is true when a person cuts down alcohol intake, eat properly and exercise, adding that there is need for an aggressive mental training shift to correct life threatening habits that many have hooked onto.

“People have got to be trained for a shift in the mind. Large corporate companies like MTC and some finance institutions like Bank Windhoek have taken decisive steps in this regard by holding Wellness days where employees go for medical check-ups like diabetes and high blood pressure.”

MTC Manager Corporate Relations, Isack Hamata says the company opened a gym that employees access round the clock, free of charge.

“Our dedicated wellness officer works in tandem with wellness institutions and medical aid companies to device programmes that will keep our staff healthy at all times,” Hamata says adding that MTC has an Occupational Health and Safety Project that ensures a systematic approach to health and safety.

Adds Hamata, “If the entire corporate Namibia can do just one or two things in respect of staff wellness, we may as well see a situation where medical aid bills are reduced and productivity is increased.”

According to Lebenberg the biggest stumbling block lies with the stark reality that healthy foods in Namibia and many countries in the region and abroad are beyond the reach of the middle income and the poor.

Lebenberg says most people cannot afford to buy the fruits and vegetables and these are the majority of people who depend on Government’s health budget.

She says it is worrisome that the current pricing situation prevailing in the country makes food that is unhealthy way cheaper than healthy food and urges Government to consider introducing subsidies and laws that will, for example, make brown bread cheaper than white for the majority of people to benefit from eating whole wheat bread that is healthier.

“Have you ever watched students at the leading tertiary institutions like the University of Namibia and the Polytechnic of Namibia? The students on a daily basis eat chips, chip rolls and fizzy drinks,” moans Lebenberg.

She adds that because of the affordability of fast food, long queues are a common sight in the Central Business District where some outlets even have special offers on certain days of the week. The long term repercussions, she notes, is putting a strain on the national Health budget as Government grapples with ever rising costs to treat associated ailments that include high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity to name a few.

The popular kapanas in Windhoek, where people jostle to get a better standing position as they stuff themselves with roasted beef and fat, is a typical example of over indulgence in foodstuffs that jeopardise health in the long run.

Many people are now moving away and reducing red meat consumption after researchers have proven that over indulgence poses health risks. As people get better paying jobs, they also tend to move away from eating the traditional foods to refined brands that are less healthy.

Lebenberg says there is a group of people in society who can afford to have information on how to live healthy life styles but do not act on the advice.

“We have the affluent society that over feeds itself and the poor who are underfed and there is no balance between these two groups. What concerns me is the ever growing number of children who are obese from consuming large quantities of sugar frosted cereals, cakes, fizzy drinks, chocolates and other unhealthy foods, and this affects their performance even in school.”

She laments how technological advancement has further worsened the sluggishness in today’s society as mechanisation has robbed today’s societies of some degree of exercising that people derived from doing traditional household chores and livelihood activities.

While rural folks are more active due to less mechanisation, their urban counterparts live lifestyles dominated by technologies that perform most tasks at the click of a button or switch, but have left many with long term health problems caused by lack of exercising.

The towering office complexes are accessed using elevators and many people use them even to get to the first floor or from the ground floor to the basement. While medical aid companies provide packages that pay health bills, they are now taking a leading role to encourage people to live healthy life styles by offering incentives that will make people exercise more.

Rethie Ahrens, a dietician with Methealth Namibia Administrators (Pty) Ltd says the NMC Wellness program was introduced to help people to change their lifestyles that include both dietary advices from a registered dietician, as well as an exercise program form a Biokineticist.

Ahrens says the objective of the program is to make lasting changes to habits which could lead to weight loss, lower blood glucose levels, lowering cholesterol or blood pressure.

Consequently, this can lead to lowering the chances of complications obesity, high cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes “In contrast, common diets are only followed for a short term and then that person will go back to their old lifestyle/ dietary habits. This means they lose weight, but when they stop the diet and start with their old diet, they usually gain weight again. This leads to what is called yo-yo dieting,” Ahrens says.

Rowing the same boat is Medscheme, the Administrators of Namibia Health Plan. Ronnie Skolnik, Senior Marketing and Consulting said, NHP offers proportionate rebates to its members who visit the gyms regularly and the more the member goes to the gym the higher the rebate.

“We are promoting a healthier lifestyle and it is hoped towards the reduction of medical expenses in the long run,” says Skolnik.

He says since the introduction of the rebates five years ago, more and more people are making use of it due to greater awareness. Skolnik expresses gratitude to the media for educating the public on the dangers of smoking, excessive alcohol and other unhealthy lifestyles. PF