UCT takes a new view on health

13 August 2007

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Njabulo S Ndebele, has blood drawn by Denise Cooper, a registered nurse with Quinhealth, which hosted a pilot health screening project in Bremner from 6-8 August.

Take charge of your health with a 20-minute screening.

UCT has piloted a screening project that it hopes will encourage staff to take more responsibility for both their health status and needs.

From 6 to 8 August, close to 100 staff - including Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Njabulo S Ndebele - from Bremner building and neighbouring offices took a 20-minute health screening test for some major lifestyle diseases.

In that time, staff had their blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and, if they agreed, HIV-status checked. (A single pinprick of blood is used for the last three tests.)

In the past, the Organisational Health and Wellness section hosted a string of successful Wellness Days, explained Ashley Taylor, organisational health and wellness advisor. One complaint, though, is that many staff members could not make it to the event, usually held on upper campus.

The section plans to roll out the facility across the entire university, with screening staff making regular stops at various locations. It's hoped that staff will take the tests whenever these are available in their areas.

That could come in handy at UCT, where staff show significantly higher levels of chronic diseases than the industry average. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidaemia (cholesterol) and diabetes type 2, according to a 2007 corporate review by Discovery Health.

"We want to make these tests more accessible to staff to help them manage their own health better," said Taylor.

That includes taking an HIV test.

"It is a lifestyle disease, after all," Taylor added.

While students flock to the regular voluntary counselling and testing sessions, few staff turn up on these occasions. By making the HIV test part and parcel of an overall check-up, it's hoped more staff will make use of the service.

Staff can, however, select which checks they wish to take, and skip the rest. (The Monday Paper reporter, for example, wasn't too keen on the weigh-in.)

Those on Discovery's Vitality programme also earned points for the visit.

Any queries about the event can be directed to either Margie Tainton on x3028 or Taylor on x2154.

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