By Dumisani Nyoni

The government has urged all Zimbabweans across the country to walk to work as opposed to driving, to curb the increase of non-communicable diseases that are now responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined.

Speaking during the launch of the 2016 Zimbabwe report card on the physical activity for children and youth at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) recently, Sport and Recreation minister Makhosini Hlongwane encouraged Zimbabweans to walk to work.

“We are asking, as part of our wellness programming, the formation of walking clubs. Why would you want to drive to a place that is very nearby when in fact you can walk? So we are encouraging Zimbabweans to walk to work as opposed to driving to
work,” Hlongwane said.

“We believe that it is important for people to walk to work. The tragedy that we having in Zimbabwe is that, a person drives just about 2km to go to work. Their office maybe is in the 10th floor of the tall castle building in town, they take a lift to the office. So there is nothing about physical activity that is going on here,” he said.

“We like to use these lifts to go up and down and it is not healthy for the nation. As part of that, we are asking for wellness programming to be part of every
school and institution”.

Commonly known as chronic or lifestyle-related diseases, the main non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic
respiratory diseases.

They are currently responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined,
according to the United Nations.

Hlongwane also urged all institutions in the country to introduce wellness programming so as to reduce effects of chronic

“When you are a ministry you must have a wellness program and we now have a focal person in every ministry across the country to handle issues of sport and recreation. Whether you are a ministry you must have your own wellness programme,” he said.

He said recently he introduced a wellness programming in the Cabinet and as such, “I think NUST should have one”

“We are not encouraging institutions to develop this policy blueprints, but we are asking them to implement those blueprints. If you don’t do that you have a decaying institution,” he said.

Hlongwane said wellness programming is preventive in approach. So you avoid running into the problem of sedentariness leading to obesity, leading to hypertension, leading to blood sugar and all the other non-communicable diseases.

“Applied relatively, that global figure, if you take 33% of Zimbabwean population away from the medication of hypertension, diabetes, blood sugar, obesity and so forth you can see how much money we will save on the fiscus and how much joy will it give to minister (Health minister David) Parirenyatwa and this is the importance of wellness programming for any institution,” he said.

The report card noted that in Zimbabwe, over 80% of children use active, rather than motorised transport to get to and from school. Even though there may be no other choice but for Zimbabwean children and youth to make walking or biking to school a way of life, children also view physical activity as an enjoyable and an integral part of their lifestyle and heritage, it says.

The report card started in September 2015, was developed by a group of lecturers mostly from the Department of Sports Science and Coaching at NUST, graduate students, a representative of non-governmental organisations and the Primary and Secondary Education ministry.

It describes benefits of regular physical activity for children, and identifies areas needing improvement, research and policy gaps and drives social action for behaviour change regarding physical activity among children and youth.

Original Article