World Hypertension Day observed to ensure the health and wellbeing of South African educators

Hypertension is a silent killer. Increasing public awareness about hypertension is key, along with access to early detection and management, especially amongst South African teachers. World Hypertension Day is observed on 17 May, under the theme “Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, and Live Longer,” to combat low awareness rates; promote accurate blood pressure measurement methods; and provide information on prevention, detection and management. WHD has been observed since 2006 to highlight the significance of adopting a healthy lifestyle to combat the disease as early diagnosis of high blood pressure can save many lives.

It is a well-known fact that a healthy body and a healthy mind equals a happy productive professional individual. Mental health and physical health are inter-linked and need to receive equal attention and care. Diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, HIV and heart disease rank in the top ten conditions contributing to chronic diseases amongst South African teachers, as evidenced by the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) and Health Risk Assessment Reports. These are also a direct cause of mental health as a contributing factor for the manifestation of these conditions. It remains the responsibility of the DBE to prioritise the holistic wellness of learners, educators, School Management Teams (SMTs), School Governing Bodies (SGBs), parents and communities.

Educators are experiencing poor well-being and burnout due to various factors such as administrative demands; learner and school performance; adapting to new educational trends; increasing education technology; overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure and resources; and violence in schools. COVID-19 has taught us that holistic wellbeing should be the foundation of all facets of learning and teaching for resilience and recovery. Research in this area is substantiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) Report.

Employees, teachers and principals who are stressed and physically unwell are less productive. Wellness and self-care programmes are essential coping mechanisms for inculcating a resilient workforce, whilst continued personal and professional development provide the capacity to better cope with challenges. Adequate rest and sleeping are important, along with healthy and nutritious eating habits. In support of the national reading initiative, books provide an unlimited source of relaxation; creative thought; knowledge and skills development; and problem-solving. Physical activity and exercise; interesting pastimes; healthy social interaction; and community involvement also foster compassion and purpose, the core of emotional intelligence, all leading to improved physical and mental health.

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