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City’s lifestyle programme gives learners their lives back


Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau’s mission to get every resident of the city to lead healthy lives shifted up a gear on Tuesday when he launched a Healthy Lifestyle Schools Programme at Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Ivory Park.

The initiative – which seeks to reward schools that keep their learners, teachers and communities healthy – is in line with the Go-Jozi Healthy Lifestyle Programme launched about four years ago to deal with lifestyle diseases and conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cholesterol and cancer and raising the city’s life expectancy.

Some of the elements that have been implemented under the Go-Jozi Healthy Lifestyle Programme to achieve these objectives over the past four years include regular 5km walks, ward-based weight-loss contents, the Kota Fortification Competition and a pledge by restaurants to include health-based menus in their offerings. The Healthy Lifestyle Schools Programme is a partnership between the City of Johannesburg, Discovery Vitality, Gauteng Education Department and other stakeholders.

The programme will provide incentives to schools that serve healthy foods in their tuck shops and promote physical activity among their learners. The initiative comes in the wake of statistics that show that less than 50% of learners get sufficient exercise, over 50% take sugary drinks, 20% are overweight, 5% are obese, over a third have tried smoking, around 21% are regular smokers, 38% are sexually active, half have used alcohol at some point in their lives and 29% have been involved in binge drinking at least once.

Launching the programme, Mayor Tau said the City wanted to ensure that “every school child in the city is healthy. We want to give kids back the extra five years of their lives.”

The launch was attended by Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi, Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Councillor Nonceba Molwele, Head of Social Development in the City Wandile Zwane and Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba of Discovery.

They all stressed that this and other programmes would help the City turn the tide against unhealthy lifestyles that resulted in premature deaths.

“Reducing premature deaths is part of service delivery. Today marks the start of a true social compact, fusing private sector efficiency and public sector operational muscle to address a specific challenge with potentially vast social impact. This should serve as a real-time demonstration of how business and the state can join forces with powerful effect when it really counts,” the Mayor said.

MEC Lesufi said his department had signed an agreement with a leading gym to erect 75 outdoor gyms in schools. Games such as chess had also been introduced to stimulate learners’ minds, he said.
Participating schools stand to win prizes ranging between R20 000 and R50 000.

About 300 schools are expected to take part in the competition this year, rising to 1 200 in five years’ time. To take part, schools need to register by May 15 on
Principal Mokgopa Leso thanked Mayor Tau and MEC Lesufi for launching the programme at his school.

Learner Mbali Shabangu and Johannesburg Junior Mayor Innocent Marubini urged their colleagues to take the programme seriously because South African needed healthy youth to succeed.

“We are 100% behind the programme … it has to succeed,” said 16-year-old Marubini.