Mother City tops health list

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Tamar Kahn Sci­ence and Health Writer

Cape Town res­i­dents may be the slimmest in the land and buy the health­i­est food, but barely half of them are at a healthy weight, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est “obecity” in­dex re­leased by Vi­tal­ity, the in­cen­tive scheme man­aged by the coun­try’s big­gest med­i­cal scheme ad­min­is­tra­tor, Dis­cov­ery Health.

Only 53.5% of Capeto­ni­ans had a healthy weight, a marginally bet­ter re­sult than Jo­han­nes­burg’s, where 52% made the grade. Bot­tom of the pile was Port El­iz­a­beth, where only 48.8% of its res­i­dents had a healthy weight. The as­sess­ment was based on body mass in­dex (BMI) and waist cir­cum­fer­ence.

Vi­tal­ity’s re­port adds to a grow­ing body of re­search show­ing that South Africans eat too lit­tle fruit and veg­gies, far too much sugar and salt, and all too read­ily turn to con­ve­nience food in­stead of pre­par­ing meals from scratch. It also high­lights the ex­tent of obe­sity in the mid­dle classes, de­spite the choices avail­able to them, said Vi­tal­ity head Craig Nos­sel.

That SA has a ris­ing pro­por­tion of obese peo­ple does not just raise their risk of lifethreat­en­ing con­di­tions such as

di­a­betes and heart dis­ease, but also places an in­creas­ing eco­nomic bur­den on the state, med­i­cal schemes and life in­sur­ers.

Over­weight or obese peo­ple in­cur an in­crease in health­care costs of about R4,400 a year, ac­cord­ing to Vi­tal­ity.

How­ever, there is some good news in the study — it found that Vi­tal­ity mem­bers who bought healthy food had a 10% lower BMI than peo­ple who did not, and that this pur­chas­ing be­hav­iour was as­so­ci­ated with up to R2,500 in lower an­nual health costs.

These re­sults high­light the re­turn on in­vest­ment from Vi­tal­ity’s pi­o­neer­ing re­wards model, which draws on be­havioural eco­nomics to nudge its mem­bers to­wards a health­ier lifestyle with in­cen­tives such as cheap gym mem­ber­ship, dis­counts on fit­ness gear, and cash-back of­fers on healthy food items.

The re­sults were re­viewed by sev­eral aca­demics in­clud­ing Barry Pop­kin of the Univer­sity of North Carolina, who said the re­duc­tions in BMI as­so­ci­ated with pur­chas­ing less junk food had im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions, as the changes set peo­ple on longterm health­ier eat­ing tra­jec­to­ries that promised even greater ef­fects. The study drew on data col­lected from just fewer than 500,000 Vi­tal­ity mem­bers dur­ing 2016. It in­cluded in­for­ma­tion on weight and waist cir­cum­fer­ence, as well as the con­tents of their shop­ping trol­leys at Vi­tal­ity’s re­tail part­ners Pick n Pay and Wool­worths.

The study also found that Dur­ban dwellers bought fewer salty and sug­ary prod­ucts than res­i­dents in other cities.

Peo­ple in Jo­han­nes­burg bought the most salty prod­ucts, while Bloem­fontein res­i­dents ap­peared to have the sweet­est tooth, buy­ing 40% more sug­ary food­stuffs than those in Dur­ban.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.