South African Family Practice

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Obesity and health problems among South African healthcare workers: do healthcare workers take care of themselves?

L Skaal, S Pengpid


Background: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. In South Africa, 56% of white men, 49% of black men and 75% of black women have been reported to be overweight or obese. The focus of this study is on South African healthcare workers (HCW), because they are considered role models for health for patients and their communities. Objectives: The objective was to determine the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related health problems among HCW and to compare these variables between medical and nonmedical staff at one selected public hospital in South Africa. Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to 200 respondents from a balanced pool of randomly selected HCW (100 medical staff and 100 nonmedical staff). Self-reported body mass index (BMI), obesity-related health problems and perceptions about body weight were assessed. Results: Seventy-three per cent of the HCW were overweight or obese, and half of them had never tried to lose weight. Females and older HCW were more obese than men and younger counterparts. There was no difference in BMI distribution between medical and nonmedical staff. About one-third of HCW reported that they suffered from obesity-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs; hypertension 20% and diabetes 10%) and stress (32.5%). The majority of HCW had an inaccurate perception of their own weight. Conclusion: South African HCW have a high prevalence of obesity-related NCDs. A health promotion programme targeting HCW is urgently needed to encourage weight control, urge the prevention of obesity-related NCDs and change selfperceptions of body weight, in order to improve their own health and make them better role models for the general public. 

Keywords: obesity, obesity-related diseases, health problems, noncommunicable diseases, healthcare workers, self-perception, hospital
AJOL African Journals Online