Health indicators and nutritional profile of staff at a training institution as a foundation for the development of nutrition wellness education material
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Background: The occurrence of absenteeism observed at the Coastal KZN FET College is very large. However, absenteeism of this magnitude is not inconsistent with observations from other educational institutions and work places around the world. Generally, absenteeism is coupled to the absence of good health, the presence of one or more non-communicable disease and the paucity of physical exercise undertaken by the personnel. Absenteeism in the work place results in avoidable financial costs to the employer, the employee, and the country as a whole. The wealth of literature shows that health concerns concerning adults are diet related. Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) are increasing at an alarming rate, daily. A double-burden plagues South Africa: on the one hand there is over-nutrition (an excessive consumption of nutrients); while on the other there is under-nutrition (an insufficient intake of nutrients by certain groups of individuals). Factors such as urbanisation, globalisation, physical inactivity and consumer financial buying power have a significant influence on these health concerns. Aim: The data gathered in this study will be used to develop nutrition wellness education material as a component of a wellness programme for staff members at the Swinton Campus of the KZN Coastal FET College in Mobeni. Methodology: A needs analysis was undertaken to determine whether nutrition wellness education material as a component of a wellness programme for the institution was appropriate. Three 24-hour recall questionnaires gathered from the staff, data on eating habits and nutrient intake were undertaken/collected. A food frequency questionnaire collected data on the frequency and variety of foods eaten. A health questionnaire gathered data on self-reported illnesses, consumption of alcohol, and smoking habits. The demographics of the group, living conditions, and amount of money earned and spent on food was assessed through a socio-demographic questionnaire. Anthropometric measurements assessed included blood pressure, waist circumference, BMI and Waist-to-height-ratio (WHtR). Results: The sample consisted of 138 participants of which 44% (n=61) were men and 56% (n=77) were women. Less than 50% of the respondents were food secure: only 65 persons (47.1%) in the sample always had money to purchase food. In this group 63.93% of the men and 71.43% of the woman were obese. Subsequently 86% of the women exceeded the waist cut-off point of 88cm while 16.39% of the men were above the 102cm cut-off point. Findings revealed that 42.62% of the men and 25.9% of the women had pre-hypertension while 8.20% of the men and 5.90% of the women were hypertensive. This study indicated that this group was nutrient deficient. The fruit and vegetable intake was between 134.44g - 175.69g per day for men and 124.00g - 183.30g per day for women. Energy, dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and iodine were below the nutrient adequacy ratio. There were positive correlations between age and systolic blood pressure, waist circumference and systolic blood pressure, waist circumference and diastolic blood pressure and waist-to-height ratio and BMI. Conclusion: Central obesity and to a lesser extent hypertension as well as deficiencies in nutrients and minerals were present in this group. Although the participants indicated a good variety of food, the quality and quantities consumed were not adequate. A link between diet, physical activity and diseases of lifestyle has been demonstrated. A need for nutrition education as a component of the wellness programme is indicated. Nutrition education is important both within and outside the workplace. To make lifestyle changes it is essential that education and knowledge is made available. Behavioural habits including eating habits are principally learnt. If bad behaviour habits can be learnt, good behaviour habits can also be instilled. The proposed intervention is aimed at reducing the incidence of absenteeism and decreasing the presence of non-communicable diseases. It is important for staff members at a FET college to be present in the classroom so that education of quality can be conveyed to learners. Further, the good health of staff members facilitates the ability of teachers to perform their important task of educating young minds at all educational institutions.