n Occupational Health Southern Africa - Risk factors for non-communicable diseases in the workforce at a commercial power plant in South Africa - original research - peer reviewed

Volume 24 Number 5
  • ISSN : 1024-6274
  • E-ISSN: 2226-6097


Background: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for more than half of annual deaths globally and nearly 40% of deaths in South Africa. The workplace can be an important setting for the prevention of NCDs. 

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to describe the prevalences of reported NCDs and previously identified risk factors for NCDs, as well as to assess risky behaviour for NCDs, and the 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease, amongst the workforce at a commercial power plant in the Western Cape province of South Africa. 

Methods: A total of 156 employees was randomly selected from the workforce of 1 743. Questionnaires were administrated to elicit self-reported information about NCDs, tobacco smoking, alcohol use, diet, physical activity and psychosocial stress. Biometric health screening included measurements and calculations of blood pressure, total cholesterol, random glucose, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). The 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease was calculated using a chart-based validated non-laboratory algorithm. 

Results: The study participants had a mean age of 42.8 (25-64) years; 65.2% were male. A quarter (26.0%) smoked tobacco, 29.4% reported harmful or dependent alcohol use, 73.0% had inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, and 64.1% were physically inactive. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure was raised in 32.7% and 34.6% of the study participants, respectively, 62.2% had raised cholesterol, 76.9% were overweight or obese, and 27.1% had abdominal obesity. Overall, 17.4% were diagnosed with hypercholesterolaemia, 17.7% with hypertension, and 16.2% with depression. Around one third (34.1%) had a moderate-to-high 10-year cardiovascular disease risk. 

Conclusion: The prevalences of both behavioural and physical risk factors for NCDs amongst the power station study participants were high. There is a need for effective workplace interventions to reduce risk for NCDs. The workplace is ideally suited for targeted interventions.

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