First Lady Margaret Kenyatta Sunday made a clarion call to the world to embrace physical exercises as a way of promoting healthy living and curbing non-communicable diseases.
The First Lady pointed out that the burden of non-communicable diseases, especially in developing countries, has taken a toll on already fragile health systems, a situation that demands a change of tact to address the pandemic.
“It (the 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,” the First Lady said.
“We have been challenged to shift our thinking and consider long-term health system strengthening, that adopts a holistic lifestyle approach and behavioural change,” she added.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta spoke shortly before she led participants of all ages and from all walks of life in the 2019 annual WHO’s “Walk the Talk” race in Geneva, Switzerland where she was the chief guest.
Participants in the open health promotion event, that aims 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, were divided into three groups including those who ran, walked or used wheelchairs to cover the eight, five and three kilometres segments of the exercise.
Among participants from Kenya were Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and marathon runner Mary Keitany.
During the event, the Kenyan First Lady was presented with the WHO Director General’s Health Leaders 2019 award in recognition of her outstanding advocacy on global health matters.
The First Lady emphasized that physical activity is the bedrock of healthy living adding that physical exercising has many benefits to the wellbeing 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 said.
The First Lady spoke of Kenya’s longstanding athletics heritage saying her health initiatives including the Beyond Zero Half Marathon draws from this foundation.
“Our marathon heritage and medals, tell a great story. Leveraging on this heritage has helped to encourage physical activity as a lifestyle for many Kenyans,” the First Lady said.
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.
“It has also enhanced awareness about the benefits of healthy living. That is why this event is so important, and I add my voice to ‘Walk the Talk’, as my personal commitment,” the First Lady said.
She encouraged all 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 First Lady also spoke on access, quality and affordable health through Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which forms a key pillar of the Kenya’s Big 4 Agenda. She said UHC is a crucial driver to achieving the commitments the global community has made towards ensuring health and wellbeing for all as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goal 3.
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the ‘Walk the Talk’ annual event demonstrates the global commitment on matters of health.
He once again commended First Lady Margaret Kenyatta 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,” the WHO Director General said.
Netherlands Minister of Health Bruno Bruins and Geneva Mayor Sami Kanaan also participated in the race among a host of other prominent global personalities.