Wellness and fitness programs minimise government expenditure: Expert

Wellness programmes which include physical exercises for fitness among employees help reduce corporate and government expenditure, a visiting American sports fundi has said.

By Tongai Mwenje in Victoria Falls

Wellness is the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

In an exclusive interview with SportBrief on the sidelines of the Sport Leaders Winter Camp, visiting Dr Gonzalo Bravo who is an associate professor at West Virginia University’s College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences said physical activity  incorporated in wellness programmes minimizes government’s spend on healthcare.

“We know that the people that are physically fit are more active as they tend to manage better those diseases than people that are less active. Their evidence is reverse on that. The question is that can you really save money in terms of hospitals, in treatment, in terms of medicine with a more physically active population?

“On paper, yes. There is a few countries that have seriously done studies in order measure that but those studies are not significantly robust in terms of assessing the cost of investment. I think in Canada and UK there is good amount of research that have found that as you improve on the number of people that are physically active there should be reduced costs in healthcare,” he said.

To Dr Bravo, a physically active nation is a better nation. “As a government I would urge it to promote physical activity,” he said.

He also said, “This is particularly true in countries where healthcare is publicly supported. If the government is spending on health, then the people are not really going to the hospital, on paper I’m telling you, then yes. There is this a generally accepted idea that there is a degree of saving in terms of people using the hospital less, absenteeism is less. People sick means lowered productivity.”

Dr Bravo said physical fitness cannot only be achieved by strenuous sporting activities but also simple activities like taking a walk daily.

“Physical activity does not only mean doing sports like basketball or football, by United States standards it requires a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. That means people can do walking for half hour five days a week. So you do not need to go for gym, pay your membership for a club,” Dr Bravo said.

According to sportandhealth.com, implementing consistent wellness programs is effective in reducing healthcare costs.

Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa allocated US$400 million to the Ministry of Health representing 7.7% of the US$5.1 billion budget.

According to the Abuja declaration, member states of the African Union pledged to allocate at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector.

If the Abuja declaration were to be implemented, the health would have gotten it’s share of $765million of the total budget.

Apparently Zimbabwe needs to invest more than 15% in the health sector because of the imbalances between the demand for healthcare services and supply.

The government has so far introduced a healthy levy fund as a supplementary gesture to the already bleeding sector.

While this was happening, the country’s budget has been failing to meet the 15% allocation towards Health, as stipulated by the Abuja Declaration.

The fund is financed by Zimbabweans who are charged five cents per every dollar of airtime, which is channelled towards the health sector, and while the Health ministry has been keeping the money under wraps, patients are struggling to get proper treatment at hospitals due to lack of drugs and blood supplies.

Dr. Bravo was the main speaker at a two day function organised by Sport Leaders Institute of Zimbabwe dubbed Sport Leaders Winter Camp. The event attended by more than 200 delegates mainly drawn from primary schools was held in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

The annual event which started in 2014 is aimed at empowering local sport administrators and coaches with necessary administrative skills.

Tongai Mwenje

Tongai Mwenje is a Senior Editor with Zimbabwe's largest online sports magazine Sportbrief www.sportbrief.co.zw. He has been writing professionally since 2012 and currently writes for technology and sport blogs. He has vast experience in digital marketing, sports reporting and analysis. He is also a Sports and Technology columnist with Financial Gazette Online Sports Column and Technology Magazine respectively.

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