South Africa is not big on occupational health culture and wellness management, indicating an unhealthy, uncaring and reactive paradigm.
Wellness, like Sheq, is the art of holistic management, aimed at high quality products and experience, with the practicable minimum of loss, maximum sustainability, and continuously improving.
A society either moves or stagnates, and stagnation is death. Fifteen years ago I visited Canada at the time when the global media was pathologically obsessed with the challenges of the new Millennium. Remember the Y2K bug?
Last year in Canada I saw a society that had dramatically changed, and more focused on wellness management. They have long been at the forefront of occupational health culture, even before we had dreamt of banning smoking in public places.
Most media coverage now was on vitality age, stabilising blood pressure, cholesterol, preventing stroke, heart disease and diabetics. I attended a peaceful march against genetically modified food in Vancouver with a colleague.
We were impressed with the collective emotional intelligence of the protesters; their event risk, noise and carbon footprints were low, no looting, no litter, their point powerfully made.
There are social problems in Canada, as in any society. Aboriginal people struggle to finish their high school education. Canadian society is highly Asianised, and Canadian Asians are xenophobic towards fellow Asians who speak poor English.
They call them ‘fresh from the boat’, as some South Africans call people from other African countries ‘Amakwerekwere’, but they are all serious about the general quality of life and health.
Canada is big on managing chronic diseases, and thus relieving pressure on their health care system. Their public systems support their occupational health culture.
They offer telemedicine where access to primary health care, doctors and specialists is limited. Telemedicine is almost as good as face-to-face with a doctor.
They provide dispatch units so that a cardiologist, for example, can ask a nurse to place a stethoscope on the patient’s chest through a headset.
Medical quality imaging allows the doctor to examine the patience’s throat or ears, just as if they were in the same room. I wish we had telemedicine technology in South Africa to reach people in rural areas and informal settlements.
We are even failing to manage chronic and preventable diseases such as stroke, TB, HIV, heart disease, cancer, and many more.
The list of occupational health-prone and hygiene-prone industries and jobs in South Africa is long; mining, driving, construction, fishing, agriculture, and even office work! Managers and sheq workers are prone to emotional stress too.
The World Health Organisation said that about 80% of diabetics, stroke and heart attacks, and 40% of cancers, could be averted with lifestyle changes.
According to the USA Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% of health depends on access to health care, 20% on genetics, 20% on environmental factors, and 50% on behaviour; eating right, exercise, not smoking, reducing alcohol consumption.
About that ‘50% behaviour’, it is driven in part by occupational health culture. Personal risk tolerance is influenced by occupational risk tolerance. Blue chip industrial employees mow the lawn at home with personal protective equipment (PPE) as a matter of habit.
Black South Africans are catching up on taking charge of their wellness at last. A pharmacy had opened a branch at Park Station, but ‘pill mentality’ is not enough. Health has mental, spiritual, emotional, and a wide range of physical aspects.
As in Sheq, a positive occupational health culture starts with awareness, informal toolbox talks, values about the things we are not prepared to negotiate, patience to await delayed gratification, not trading in short term gain for long term impacts.
It ends with peer pressure and the values adopted by a self-sustaining culture.
Employers can significantly increase workers’ health habits by a range of leadership and management interventions, including information, rostering, exposure monitoring, and targeted medical surveillance.
• Mabila Mathebula is a senior researcher at the Railway Safety Regulator. He writes on Sheqafrica.com in his personal capacity.
==== Editor notes; In response to a comment about the ‘revolutionary’ ideas of Prof Tim Noakes (see below), his ideas actually revert to a lifestyle before food and bevarage became a commodity and branding industry.
Part of the awareness and attitude problem blocking people from taking charge of their own health, is the trust we place in suppliers, and the sweet tooth we (and farmers and bakers) have for wheat. Before the Greeks exported wheat from Turkey and planted it on Sicily, we had better and a greater variety of food. Despite its commercial advantages, it took up to the 1800s before wheat replaced rye and some other crops in Europe, thanks to its greater suitability to industrialised agriculture, marketing, baking, and retail. That does not mean it is good food; it just has a better shelf life.
Many modern health problems are directly due to wheat, and the way we process and re-process it, and use it.
For the benefit of caterers and health services, here is a list of food compatible with all blood types, O, A, B, and AB;
FRUIT: apple, watermelon, peach, fig, guava
VEGG: broccoli, onion, spinach, chard, greenpepper, sweetpotato, beetroot, carrot, [pumpkin, butternut]
MEAT: egg, chicken, ostrich beef, mutton, venison, calf-liver
FISH: trout, sardine, mackerel, hake, shark, canned-salmon
CHEESE: feta, mozzarella, butter
BREAD: pure-rye, rice, millet
CEREAL: oats, pinhead-oats, millet, puffed-rice, barley
PASTA: rice, rye, buckwheat, tapioca (no common durum /semolina pasta)
BEAN: black-eyed, pinto, broad, greenpea
OIL: olive(raw, unheated), linseed, flaxseed
NUT: walnut, almond, hazel, pecan, pumpkinseed
SWEET: sugar, honey, molasses, jelly
JUICE: grape-juice, white-wine, beer
VITAMIN: B, K, calcium, iodine, manganese
Sardine, pilchard, salmon, mackerel;
Black-eyed beans, pinto beans, broad-beans, greenpeas, (no cowboy beans)
Fig jam, olive oil,
Beef-balls, mutton-and-rice, (no bully beef).
Each blood type has a larger variety to choose from. Blood type A has the smallest choice, since it struggles to digest meat, and should opt for fish and ostrich.
Drinks first, then fruit, then food. Take a big breakfast.
-Based on Dr Peter D’Adamo and Catherine Whitney: Eat Right Diet