Perceptions of body weight and health risks among primary school educators in the Western Cape, South Africa
MetadataShow full item record
The global problem of overweight and obesity is disturbing judging by the World Health Organization 2008 statistics which estimate that 1.4 billion and 500 million adults are overweight and obese. Thus, as a major risk for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are the foremost cause of disability and death, the problem of obesity needs to be addressed not only globally but in South Africa as well. South Africa’s burden of disease includes NCDs and causes of death of diseases such as diabetes (3%), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) (11%), cancer (7%) and chronic respiratory diseases (3%). The HealthKick study is a school-based nutrition and physical activity intervention programme in the Western Cape, S.A., aimed to promote healthy behaviours such as healthful eating and physical activity in children, parents and teachers to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. During the formative phase of the study it emerged that educators were at high risk for NCDs because of their high levels of obesity. This study therefore aimed to describe primary school educators’ perceptions regarding body weight, related health risks and barriers to weight management. A qualitative approach was used to collect data and included focus group discussions (FGDs), and in-depth individual interviews (IDIs). In addition anthropometric measurements were taken. Four schools were purposively selected and a total of thirty one male and female educators participated in the seven focus group discussions and four in-depth interviews from the four schools. Male FGDs and IDIs and female FGDs and IDIs were conducted separately. The focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic data analysis was conducted with the use of ATLAS ti 6.1 computer software.The results of the study indicate that educator perceptions regarding their own body weight varied slightly from the actual. Positive and negative weight loss experiences and feelings regarding their own body weight were expressed. Educators appeared knowledgeable about overweight/obesity and its health risks for particular NCDs. Several personal barriers were identified by the educators; however, of particular interest were the barriers relating to the school environment, identified barriers included lack of time, heavy workloads and school responsibilities. Several factors for consideration emerged relating to implementing an educator weight management programme in the schools. These included: the involvement of the department of education (DOE), the type of activities planned and the time of implementation.