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Investing in wellness critical for economic growth

Opinion & Analysis
Mental Health Crisis

HEALTH experts agree that we are faced with an unprecedented mental health crisis in the coming years. The world is going through significant shifts and the practices and personal lives of almost everyone have sustained high levels of uncertainty and stress. This is not about to end.

Leaders, be they in the public or private sector, need to appreciate why holistic well-being is crucial in order for them to remain effective. This, of course, also applies to their organisations and employees.

Among some of the key benefits of a holistic approach to well-being are not only a productive and healthy life, but lower health care costs for the economy as a whole in the long run.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the lack of investment by many countries and organisations in well-being of their human capital. Well-being or wellness does not only include diet, exercise, healthy habits and sleep, but also encompasses emotional and mental health, social connection and the need for meaning and purpose including psychological safety.

Psychological safety describes the condition in which people feel included where it is safe to learn, contribute and challenge the status quo without fear. Well-being is also linked to self-determination, a psychological concept which refers to the ability of people to make choices, manage their lives and feel that they have control, over their choices and lives.

It is fact that leading well depends on wellness of the leaders and their employees or followers. Sadly at most times leaders take their health for granted and, unfortunately, in Africa, the health and wellness of our leaders remain State secret and yet it has a profound effect on their effectiveness in leading.

I certainly got a wake-up call recently after having a chat with the co-founder and director of Wellness Rediscovery, Lee-Ann Chimbira, who together with her business partner, have established a wellness hub that focuses on a holistic wellness and provides wellness doctors, occupational physiotherapy, diet and nutrition advice, psychology consultations, fitness and weight management, medical screening and disease management services.

The two professional physiotherapists saw the need for early intervention when it comes to health and wellness. Having been trained as a physiotherapist Chimbira (31) and her business partner realised that there was need for a more holistic approach to wellness through early intervention.

Wellness rediscovery, which was established in 2017, is their answer and to date they have worked closely with medical aid societies to provide holistic wellness to members.

According to Chimibira, there is still need to create awareness within society at large and especially within corporates of the benefits of the well-being of their executives and employees. Government and the private sector need to invest more in holistic wellness programmes.

The truth of the matter is that in Zimbabwe, not many are conscious of the need for preventive health and this is made worse by the high cost to access to health services. According to Chimbira, leaders often neglect their own well-being in pursuit of lofty goals to their own detriment. Issues such as mental health, burnout and fatigue are common; while high blood pressure, diabetes and preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) continue to have their toll.

A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on physical activity is quite shocking, According to WHO, almost 500 million people will develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) attributable to physical inactivity between 2020 and 2030.

The Global Status report on physical activity 2022 measures the extent to which governments are implementing recommendations to increase physical activity across all ages and abilities. The economy costs of not doing anything are huge. According to the report, the cost of treating new cases of preventable NCDs will reach US$300 billion by 2030.

The report calls for countries to prioritise a fitness boost in order to tackle NCDs and intergrade physical activity into all relevant policies. In order to help counties increase physical activity, WHO’s Global Action Plan on physical activity 2018-2030 sets out 20 recommendations, which include safer roads to encourage more biking and walking and providing opportunities for physical activity in key settings such as child care, schools, primary health care and the work place.

In developing economies there is a clear under investment and lack of spending on issues of well-being. There is more focus on treatment of disease and not on prevention and as a result the costs of healthcare are spiralling out of control. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that people in developing countries spend half a trillion dollars annually out of their worn pockets to access basic health services.

Lack of universal access to quality affordable health services threatens long term economic prospects and makes developing economies more vulnerable to pandemic risks.

Developing countries face serious growing burdens of the costs of treating preventable NCDs and this will continue to put strain on resources. Clearly going forward investment in wellness and taking a preventative strategy is no longer a luxury, but must be incorporated in all sectors of the economy.

The government and private sector need to take the lead and invest more in preventative wellness programmes.

 

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