South Africa’s unhealthiest cities

 ·21 Oct 2014
Fat man

The least healthiest South Africans live in Bloemfontein while the healthiest live in Cape Town, according to a new report.

According to the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index the least healthy Vitality members, when compared on weight status and associated factors, live in Bloemfontein.

With more than 60% of South African women overweight/obese (double the global average), South Africa is one of the world’s most overweight nations, Discovery said.

“The South African obesity epidemic is the result of several factors relating to changes in diet, physical activity levels, and the work, home, and community environments.”

“The results of the ObeCity Index are alarming and another stark reminder that we are trending in the wrong direction as a nation. We hope that research of this nature will move us from awareness to action,” said Dr Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness at Discovery.

“Policymakers, retailers, restaurants, the community in general, workplaces, parents, and school tuckshops should rise to the challenge of ensuring that healthy food choices are abundantly available in our environments, and aim to make good food a cool choice,” said Professor Marjanne Senekal, head of human nutrition at University of Cape Town.

The ObeCity Index, created by Discovery Vitality along with experts in obesity and nutrition from leading South African academic institutions, uses information about weight status and health habits collected from Vitality members in the cities of: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, and Pretoria.

It weighs up members’ profiles for figures with respect to weight status, food and beverage choices, physical activity, and psychological wellbeing and reveals which cities have the healthiest residents.

How SA’s cities rank

1. Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein has the least healthy weight status, along with the lowest scores for fruit and vegetable intake and highest consumption of sugary drinks and salty foods. Bloem also ranks second lowest for physical activity.

2. Pretoria

Pretoria does alright in the weight status category (coming in fourth), but Vitality members here have the highest score for adding fat to food, and the lowest score for sleep quality.

Pretorians spend the second most amount of time sitting, and least amount of time exercising, giving them the lowest physical activity score.

3. Port Elizabeth

comes in third overall. The city ranked joint second in the physical activity category, too, which showed residents are relatively active and are sitting less than most of the other cities. However, they came in second lowest for weight status and food and beverage choices.

4. Durban

The city ranked fourth overall is Durban. Durbanites ranked second (with PE) in the physical activity category (that includes sitting time), but ranked third for physical activity specifically.

The score for food and beverage choices pulled Durban down, with areas of concern being low fruit and vegetable intake, adding sugar to tea and coffee, and adding fat to food.

5. Johannesburg

Joburg is the second best overall and Jozi residents have the best weight status score when compared to members in the other cities.

Johannesburg members have the best BMI, waist circumference, body fat percentage, and waist to height ratio scores. Joburgers also have the second highest score for healthy eating, including being least likely to add sugar to tea and coffee and most likely to opt for wholegrains. However they do spend the most time sitting.

6. Cape Town

had the highest overall score, with the highest category scores for food and beverage choices, physical activity, psychological well-being, and second only to Johannesburg in weight status.

Although Cape Town Vitality members had the best score for fruit and vegetable intake and second best for adding fat to food and adding sugar to tea and coffee, these scores are still in the low range and need to improve.

Cape-Tonians should take care to avoid sitting for long periods of time, as sitting time is one of the lowest scores for the city.

This ObeCity Index is the result of data collected from just under 170,000 Discovery Vitality members over the age of 18 years, who completed a Vitality Health Review during 2013.

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