Research on stress wins huge prize
POTCHEFSTROOM - The Sympathetic Activity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure of Africans (SABPA) project of the School of Physiology, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU) has been identified as one of the three best projects worldwide in the fight against the increasing occurrence of metabolic syndrome.
With this award by the international science committee of the Metabolic Syndrome Institute (MSI) in France, Dr Leoné Malan, the project leader, received prize money of approximately 10 000 American dollars. Furthermore, she has been invited to present some of the study results in New York in July.
According to Dr Malan, a former teacher and currently senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences, lifestyle illnesses are increasing in urban areas and people in certain occupations such as teaching are more predisposed to it. During the past years, teachers have been exposed to the increasing pressure of especially technology, uncertainty and changes in the curricula. Added to this, teachers suffer from the changing teacher to learner ratio, disciplinary problems, violence in schools, more pressure to perform and coping skills.
Dr Malan is of the opinion that the impact of these aspects can reflect in higher activity of the nervous system, which leads to more body stress, which in turn influences general health. “The project was initiated because an ill teacher, whether physically or mentally, is not optimally suited for the teaching profession,” she said.
The objective of the project is to measure biological and genetic markers of lifestyle illnesses in teachers who apply a specific coping style. Lifestyle illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes/metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and poor psychological health such as depression, anxiety and insomnia are included in the study.
According to Dr Malan the project is a multidisciplinary study and will include 400 black and white teachers from Potchefstroom. The project of approximately two years includes several national and international co-workers.
“It is one of my ideals that each school should have counsellors on the staff who can assist children from a very early age to acquire effective coping skills. This will help them to manage their lifestyle, environmental and personal challenges in a better way,” said Dr Malan.
For more information, please contact Dr Leoné Malan at (018) 299 2438.