BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA and PSCU
The world has been called upon to embrace physical exercises as a way of promoting healthy living and stopping non-communicable diseases.
Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta noted the burden of non-communicable diseases have taken toll on the already fragile health systems especially in developing countries.
This situation, according to her, demands a change of tact to address the pandemic.
“It (burden of non-communicable diseases) has shifted our health focus from mortality driven by infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, cholera and typhoid, to mortality driven by non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases,” she said.
Mrs Kenyatta added that the world has been challenged to shift its thinking and consider long-term health system strengthening, that adopts a holistic lifestyle approach and behavioural change.
She spoke shortly before she led participants of all ages and from all walks of life in the 2019 annual World Health Organisation’s “Walk the Talk” race in Geneva, Switzerland where she was the chief guest on May 19, 2019.
The race event is divided into three groups including those who ran, walked or used wheelchairs to cover the eight, five and three kilometres segments of the exercise.
Participants aimed at creating awareness on the importance of physical activity as part of a healthy sustainable future and recognition of the role played by the city of Geneva as the hub for global health.
Among participants from Kenya were Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and marathon runner Mary Keitany.
The First Lady stressed that physical activity is the bedrock of healthy living adding that physical exercising has many benefits to the well-being of the human body most importantly being prevention of illnesses.
“Linking this to good nutrition and reinforcing healthy habits including physical exercise, is something we as leaders, need to encourage in our communities,” she added.
According to her Kenya’s longstanding athletics heritage, her health initiatives including the Beyond Zero Half Marathon draws from this foundation (physical exercises) has helped to encourage physical activity as a lifestyle for many Kenyans.
The Beyond Zero Marathons, which the First Lady has been hosting, have brought together thousands of Kenyans over the past four years to run for a cause to end maternal and child mortality.
She asked the participants to embrace the idea of wellness and prevention by putting their health first, saying that will be their contribution to saving lives for themselves, their families and communities.
The WHO director general (DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the ‘Walk the Talk’ annual event demonstrates the global commitment on matters of health while commending the Kenyan First Lady for being the only holder of her office who runs marathons to promote health.
“The First Lady of Kenya has been running marathons for a worthy cause. She has run for the health of women, for the health of children and for the health of adolescents,” he said.
Earlier, the organisation DG praised Mrs Kenyatta for being a torchbearer in the promotion of healthy living through her Beyond Zero initiative when she paid him a courtesy call in his Geneva headquarters in Switzerland on May 18, 2019.
WALK THE TALK RUN
Mr. Ghebreyesus expressed optimism that the Kenyan First Lady’s participation in the “Walk the Talk” run will encourage other leaders in the world to take part in the annual event that is now in its second year.
After presenting the First Lady with branded running kit depicting the theme of the race, he encouraged other countries to embrace and replicate similar events aimed at promoting healthy living.
Mrs Kenyatta assured her commitment to supporting WHO’s initiatives that are aimed at encouraging healthy lifestyles to keep diseases at bay globally.
Besides the run, the First Lady is expected to take part in other events on the sidelines of the WHO main meeting beginning today (May 20, 2019).