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9 January 2020
UWC Cum Laude Master’s graduate’s tackles the misconception about physical activity and non-communicable diseases to inform policy

(Published - 9 January 2020)

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill millions around the globe annually. Mpai Tshidisegang Tshwaro Rampou - who graduated with her Master’s in Sport, Recreation and Exercise Science in December - found that misconceptions about physical activity (PA) and NCDs partially contribute to this scourge in South Africa. 

Her thesis explores the knowledge and perception of youth in a low-resourced community in the Western Cape.

“My results indicated that female youth were reasonably knowledgeable about physical activity. However, they lacked sufficient knowledge with regards to NCDs, indicating that the participants are uninformed about NCDs and their risk factors in their community and local healthcare centres,” she explained.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs are the result of a “combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors”.

They include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. 

“NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three quarters of global NCD deaths - 32-million - occur,” the WHO noted.

On December 10, world leaders and health experts handed eight recommendations to the WHO Director-General in a bid to save the lives of those at risk of NCDs and mental health illnesses. 

Rampou said female youth’s socio-economic environment has an impact on their perceptions and decisions made with regards to PA, and this encourages them to engage in NCDs risk factors such as unhealthy eating, excessive alcohol use, smoking and physical inactivity.

“The study will go on to inform policy at the provincial and national level to provide cost effective and sustainable educational intervention programmes that address the youth’s misconception on PA and NCDs risk factors. Creation of awareness can positively influence beliefs and promote healthier practices, therefore making it crucial to understand NCDs’ risk factor implications on health, in lieu of combating the onset of NCDs.”

Rampou chose to further her studies at UWC as it was affordable at the time, and the Sports Science programme sparked her interest. “I then decided to study my Master’s in Sport Recreation and Exercise Science at UWC so I can use the knowledge acquired through research and development to empower young women from previously disadvantaged communities through sport,” she said.

However, earning a Master’s with a Cum Laude distinction is no easy task. “There is no secret - it takes hard work, dedication, commitment and support from friends and family. I spent many hours at university and I had to sacrifice a lot to achieve this, but it was all worth it ,” she said.

Rampou feels that young women in South Africa from disadvantaged communities have the potential to be game-changers in their communities through sport and academia. “I entered this particular field so I can equip myself with the relevant knowledge and skills to be part of the change and to inspire other young females to do the same.” 

Besides the tremendous support she received from her family and friends, Rampou also thanked Lorna Holtman, Olushola Rotimi Adeniyi and Cornelia Hart from the Division of Postgraduate Studies, as well as her supervisors Dr B Andrews, Dr M Young and Dr Sunday Onagbiye, who assisted her in excelling in her Master’s journey.