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South Africa: iChange4Health Initiative to Target Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle
Source: SA - the Good News
Source Date: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Knowledge Management in Government, Citizen Engagement, Institution and HR Management, Internet Governance
Country: South Africa
Created: Nov 14, 2013

Prof Krisela Steyn, Associate Director of the Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa says, “The iChange4Health initiative addresses the requirements of the newly released National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs which emphasise the need for lifestyle modification services in South Africa. Already, lifestyle-related diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks and strokes are the main reason why most people attend primary healthcare services. The iChange4Health package aims to increase the capacity of local health workers to effectively motivate and assist patients to make healthier lifestyle choices. Local research shows that most patients want more information about lifestyle from their healthcare providers and trust what they say.”
The iChange4Health programme - the first of its kind in SA - is an evidence-based approach that forms a crucial part of effective interventions aimed at reducing the risk of chronic diseases of lifestyle by way of brief behavioural change counselling. Essentially, iChange4Health seeks to empower patients to make healthier lifestyle choices via dialogue with doctors.
The resource package was researched and developed by the CDIA with support from the Cancer Association of SA and in partnership with leading local generics manufacturer, Pharma Dynamics.
Prominent members of SA’s medical fraternity have thrown their weight behind the iChange4Health initiative including Prof Bongani Mayosi, Head of Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT); Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University; Prof Bob Mash, Head of Family Medicine and Primary Care at Stellenbosch University (SU); Prof Dinky Levitt, Head of Diabetic Medicine and Endocrinology at UCT; and Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Prof Mayosi, who has always been an advocate for preventative healthcare, welcomes the programme. “It is high time that more emphasis is placed on prevention and that the role which healthcare practitioners can play is given renewed emphasis. The iChange4Health programme enables health care providers to be more effective in changing chronic diseases of lifestyle risk behaviours and improving self-management among patients with existing chronic conditions.
“There is a considerable body of research that strongly supports the benefits of lifestyle change as a means of decreasing chronic diseases of lifestyle risk. Even modest changes in behaviour can substantially reduce morbidity and mortality,” says Prof Mayosi.
Prof Mash says Brief Behaviour Change Counseling (BBCC) will ensure that every consultation counts, especially when it comes to helping people adjust their lifestyles. “If we continue to deal with risk factors in a piecemeal way then the results will be minor. Finally a holistic multi-behavioural intervention has been created which should be adopted by all healthcare practitioners, particularly those working in the primary care sector,” encourages Prof Mash.
Prof Steyn points out that in SA, patients get very little information about how lifestyle change can help prevent, manage and avoid complications for these conditions. “This is the first time that healthcare providers are being offered such a comprehensive resource package which offers guidelines and good materials to better equip them to effectively counsel and help patients.”
Mariska Fouché, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, responsible for rolling out the programme to doctors countrywide says they aim to train at least 250 doctors by year end. “The strategies and tools used in BBCC do not require any significant additional investment of time and resources from a healthcare practitioner and can easily be integrated into general clinical care. The approach is based on the ‘Five A’s’ best practice method for BBCC, which consists of five simple steps - Ask; Alert; Assess; Assist and Arrange – that can be done in a few minutes. International research shows that even just a few minutes discussion time in the consultation on smoking, diet, drinking or physical activity can help motivate patients change to their habits."
Physicians from the eight Family Medicine Departments at various universities around the country have already been trained by Prof Mash and colleagues in the use of the resource package. They in turn will go on to train other GPs in the respective provinces.
Training dates have been scheduled for October and November and interested healthcare providers who would like to find out more about the programme or want to register can do so by visiting www.ichange4health.co.za. Training will be offered free of charge and as an additional incentive healthcare providers will receive CPD points following completion of the training.
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