Global deaths associated with lifestyle diseases are propagated to be at 70 per cent by 2030, with a burden of 56 per cent of related diseases.

In 2015, World Health Organization (WHO) study reveals that 61 per cent of global deaths were attributed to lifestyle diseases, translating to 35 million people.

The advent of these lifestyle diseases is blamed on physical inactivity among other variables according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics of 2018.

In Kenya, similar research by the CDC indicated that 18.7 per cent of Kenyans are overweight while 5 per cent are obese.

This translates to 20 per cent of the population at high risk of developing chronic diseases.

Migori County was ranked above other counties with the highest obesity rates at 4.4 per cent by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation ranks.

Despite the impact of sports on one’s well-being is regarded as just for physical and entertainment benefits, the healthy sides of sports have been greatly downplayed.

A day without physical activity made me dull

Steve Okech did not know that staying away from physical activities was an invitation for obesity until he was diagnosed with the condition back in 2017.

For Okech, staying indoors at home, playing video games and watching Netflix movies was the order of the day.

He developed a habit of avoiding games in school, which turned out to be the cause of his suffering as he started gaining weight.

This was in addition to eating a lot of junk, which further fueled his condition as he struggled with the addiction.

“I gained massive weight during my highschools days. For me, I did not realise the sudden increase in my size until the time I was diagnosed with diabetes,” narrate Oketch.

‘The hard journey was how to start changing my habit all of a sudden,”

However, his breakthrough came after his medical doctor prescribed morning runs and yoga that he had to force himself just to save his condition.

Though tough, Oketch says that with consistency he started to realize some weight loss. This was his journey to regaining fitness.

In an attempt to pass out health messages to all age groups, health institutions have partnered with or sponsored sports tournaments to help them successfully do health campaigns.

From the horse’s mouth 

Maureen Chepkuriu, a beneficiary of the Sports for Health tournaments held in Migori County

As a beneficiary of the Sports for Health tournaments held in Migori County, Maureen Chepkuriu encourages the youth to participate more in physical activities as a way of keeping physically fit.

She admits the benefits of participating in sports, among them improving mental cognition and staying always stress-free.

“I am a testimony that physical activities keep one fit. I wish to encourage fellow youth to build more on sports for improved health, says Chepkurui.

According to Kennedy Otieno, an expert in Physical Education (P.E), sports and exercise not only boost one’s cardiovascular health but also improve both physical and mental well-being.

Otieno explains that regular physical activity is one of the most beneficial things a person can engage in for their health.

“Sports offer an incredible opportunity to maintain good health and improve overall well-being in many ways,” says the PE experts.

World Health Assembly’s resolution to prevent and control lifestyle diseases directed all Member States to implement the prevention and control measures for these diseases.

In a similar move, LifeCare Hospitals in Migori has devised a partnership program with community sports clubs and academies to educate the community on the importance of healthy practices.

The partnership which happens quarterly sensitizes people on the importance of physical activities to the human body’s health wise. 

The program is a gateway for the hospitals to give back to society by offering medical counselling to the society.

The advent of sports for health

Though being an initiator of the program in Migori, Lifecare Hospitals is just among the health institutions that use sports for promoting health.

The American Heart Association, for example, partnered with National Football League (NFL) to promote physical activity and heart through National Football League PLAY 60.

The World Health Organization (WHO) promotes physical activities and sports as a way to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Just like the WHO, Lifecare Hospitals aims at achieving the same by creating opportunities for the youth to participate in sports, especially in low-income communities.

The aim is to reach those who may find it difficult to access quality health facilities by organizing community sports tournaments with health themes.

In so doing, health professionals who become guest speakers get a chance to meet and educate the mass on health themes or create awareness of a disease outbreak.

By this, as Jeff explains, the health messages will be incorporated into health education like a healthy diet, the importance of hydration, or the use of condoms to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Giving back to the community 

Dr Mayank Puri, Director LifeCare Hospitals,

According to Dr Mayank Puri of LifeCare Hospitals, sports for Health is an initiative that makes them appreciate the community as well as promotes health campaigns.

“Sports promote a healthy culture and the services we offer are not just about treatment. It is also about promoting healthy culture in society,” explained Dr Mayank.

Mayank further explains that the initiative to use sports in promoting health has been driven by the existing health gaps that need to be filled.

As a health expert, he advises that sports offer unique opportunities for social engagements and teamwork apart from building one’s social network for all ages.

“We mainly use sports in promoting healthy living and to educate people on better ways of preventing opportunistic diseases,” says Mayank.

Participating in sports during adolescence is associated with improved mental health and reduced risk of depression in adulthood.

Additionally, regular physical activity reduces depression and anxiety in young adults below the age of 23, lowering the risk of developing mental health issues.

For LifeCare Hospitals, this is an objective that is easily achievable through sports for health tournaments.

Jeff Ochieng’ from LifeCare says that sports for health also aim at promoting general wellness to reduce the health risks associated with inactivity.

He explains that hypertension and diabetes which are majorly brought by lack of activity have been on the rise and so encouraging sports is the easiest way to reduce and prevent complications.

“We are promoting wellness in general by encouraging people that they can reduce health complications by participating in positive physical activities,” explains Jeff. 

Jeff Ochieng’ from LifeCare Hospitals Migori

Philip Dunga, a football fanatic, says that he aims to use sports for promoting health among the youth.

Depending on the support, Dunga says that his wish is to organize the tournaments monthly as a way to reach more people to sensitize them on opportunistic disease control.

“A physically fit body is a healthy body. As a former player, I wish to continue coaching talents while also promoting healthy practices among the youth,” said Dunga.

Further interventions 

In the future, Jeff says that using sports to promote wellness is the new norm for any health institution which is determined to be at the forefront of reducing health complications.

He says that life insurance is critical to low-income earners especially in times of health emergency, while at the same time encouraging them to use the events to register.

As a way of giving back to the community, Lifecare Hospitals aim to sponsor sports events as a way of promoting talents as well as offering first aid in sports.

Generally, sports and health complement each other as sports act as an effective tool for improving community health. 

Health institutions, therefore, should frequently use sports to promote healthy lifestyles to increase their influence and outreach in the community.

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