There’s a good chance you could be one of the growing number of South Africans at risk for developing chronic disease, unless you take charge of your health, sooner rather than later. Dr Ali Hamdulay, General Manager of Metropolitans health division, says adopting a healthier lifestyle is the answer, however behaviour change related to health is difficult.


Non-communicable diseases (NCDS) are chronic medical conditions or diseases that are non-infectious.  They are generally preceded by unhealthy behaviour or lifestyles, such as poor diet, physical inactivity and tobacco usage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates NCDs account for 43% of total deaths in South Africa, with cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes the main culprits.


Fortunately intermediary risk factors, such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood glucose, offer early warning signals that a chronic disease, such as hypertension or diabetes, may evolve in the absence of appropriate behaviour change. However, these early alerts are only detected through regular screening.


Most people know the basics about what to do to stay healthy, however often lack the skills and willpower to apply that knowledge when making daily choices about their health. Given the inherent difficulty in changing behaviour, a team effort is required to empower individuals in changing to healthier lifestyles that prevent NCDs, say Dr Hamdulay.

Dr Ali Hamdulay

He believes that an individuals medical scheme and its managed care company, along with their healthcare providers and employer, are some of the key players who should be working together to support and encourage you to take ownership of your health status, and enable you to change from being a passive recipient of scheme benefits and medical services to an active partner and co-producer of your own health and well-being.


“The fix-me-when-I’m-sick attitudes that currently prevails across our largely curative oriented healthcare system needs to change.  This requires a team effort from all players.


Dr Hamdulay encourages health consumers to start seeing healthcare providers, be they a GP, nurse or pharmacist, in a different light. Rather than simply the person we turn to when sick, think about them as a skilled professional and partner who can support you to remain healthy.

Similarly, the healthcare professionals delivering managed care services for medical schemes have a wealth of skills, expertise and information that can be applied to help scheme members know their health status and take appropriate actions to improve it.


Dr Hamdulay also encourages anyone who is on chronic medication or has a chronic illness to actively participate in their schemes disease management programme. He explains, These programmes are far more than just ensuring you have access to scheme benefits for treatment. Nowadays they focus on self-management, health education and genuinely enabling the individual to adopt behaviours that help them maintain and improve their health, and prevent complications.


Many medical schemes offer members access to rewards programmes which incentivise healthier lifestyle choices. The members of all medical schemes administered by Metropolitans health division have access to Multiply, a healthy rewards programme focused on the three key behavioural areas that contribute to the majority of chronic lifestyle disease. Underpinned by behavioural economics, these programmes really can make a difference, but require the active participation of members committed to taking charge of their health.


Dr Hamdulay encourages members to make active use of their schemes preventative care benefits, such as vaccinations and health screening. If you haven’t already gotten your flu vaccination for winter, make a plan to do so today amidst warnings that this years flu season is expected to be particularly harsh.  Also remember to have regular health screening tests to pick up any early signals of NCD risk.


In closing, Dr Hamdulay says, The world of healthcare is changing. Each individual needs to be empowered to own their health and become an active partner in working with their healthcare providers and medical scheme in making healthy choices that prevent the development of chronic illness.

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