Panel discusses the role of the private sector in workplace wellness in Kenya
The Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development (ACORD), in partnership with the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), hosted a roundtable discussion on June 10, 2015, that brought together representatives of the private sector in Kenya, government officials, civil society organisations and other organisations to discuss the increasing cases of non-communicable diseases and how workplace wellness programmes in the private sector could tackle this issue.
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Media personality, John Sibi-Okumu, who moderated the discussion funded by Stop AIDS Now! (SAN), said that this was the beginning of a dialogue that would bring to the fore an important discussion.
“It is best to begin the discussion now than to begin it when issues around health at the workplace reach tsunami proportions,” he said.
Jacob Nanjakululu, ACORD’s Kenya country director, stated, while welcoming the participants, that non-communicable diseases are becoming an increasingly growing menace in Africa.
Isaac Kiema, of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) project and capacity-building department, said FKE came up with the first roadmap for HIV and AIDS wellness in Kenya and has since spearheaded workplace wellness.
“However, employers are not spending a lot of resources on non-communicable diseases,” he said.
Salina Sanou, ACORD’s head of policy and advocacy, said sub-Saharan Africa faced a huge burden in terms of NCDs.
“It affects to the productivity and growth that the continent aspires to,” she said.
She said the private sector has the resources to support the development of policies to respond to NCDs and assist the government and non-governmental agencies in reaching out to the citizens across the continent.
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Dr Joseph Kibachio, the head of the Division of NCDs, Ministry of Health, said NCDs should be looked at as a developmental issue. He said there are diseases have developed over the past 50 years that were not there before.
“Wellness programmes developed around HIV and AIDS,” he said. “There are very few programmes currently in place for NCDs yet they are the most threatening diseases in Africa today.”
Employers, he said, need to look at determinants of health, looking at all the dimensions of wellness, from physical, economic, intellectual and spiritual wellness of the employee. Also, healthy marketing should be done so that consumers are aware of products that are detrimental to their health.
Joseph Wafula, the corporate wellness advisor, Barclays Bank, said Barclays had a workplace programme that has been in place for 12 years. He said that most corporations have budgets that focus on safety, health and environment, which means that they have funds for employees’ wellness.
“Behaviour change communication needs to be used as a major tool in workplace wellness programmes,” he said.
Ms. Doreen Kanyua, the performance, rewards and benefits officer, Standard Chartered Bank, Kenya, said that by not looking after employees, the private sector could end up losing a lot more in terms of profit as more money will be spent dealing with employees’ health issues.
“Competitive advantage for corporations is not sustainable unless employees are healthy,” she said.
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Mr. Dalmas Okendo, operations manager, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), said manufacturers aspire for business competitiveness of their products.
“It is not a mechanised function, but involve human resource,” he said. “Also, marketing these products involves human resources.”
Okendo said minimisation of costs of production include labour, which is why manufacturers are now taking wellness programmes seriously to ensure that added costs, such as increased medical costs, are not tagged to production costs. “In spite of the drive for greater profits, wellness is at the core of manufacturers.” He said KAM was looking to partner with ACORD and other CSOs to discuss ways of developing wellness programmes for employees in the manufacturing industry.
Participants at the roundtable expressed the wish to establish a platform to continue engaging in this discussion and share lessons and develop interventions that the private sector can use to sustain workplace wellness programmes.