Clarity through crisis - prioritising good health and well-being

27 Jan 2021

Maxine Gray

Strategy development, Investec Wealth & Investment

Simone Smith

Head of Compliance, Investec Wealth & Investment

If the pandemic has given us one thing, it’s clarity on the importance of our physical and mental health, which speaks directly to the UN's third Sustainable Development Goal. 

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The coronavirus pandemic has consumed our world, turned our lives inside out and changed the way we live, think and work. For decades, we’ve heard the phrase ‘our health is our greatest wealth’, but never before have we faced a healthcare crisis of this magnitude that has made us understand the truth and gravitas of it.
 
It is not only our physical health that is under threat, but also our mental well-being as we see direct and indirect consequences of living through this pandemic materialise. As we move forward, we will not only need to take measures to prevent further viral or other infections, we will also need to ensure we take steps to nurture and invest in our holistic well-being.
 
As one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise referred to as the “global goals for sustainable development”, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being speaks directly to this. The objective of SDG 3 is to ensure good health and promote well-being for people of all ages, with a fundamental belief that when people are in good health, societies prosper.
 
Its targets are wide-ranging and cover a number of different issues including reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental health, universal health care coverage and environmental risks to the health care system.
 
Since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals it’s well documented that historic progress has been made across a number of areas including child mortality, maternal health and tackling the HIV/AIDS and tuberculous epidemics.
 
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has severely interrupted progress across the world while healthcare professionals continue to fully focus on the pandemic. Unfortunately, the pandemic threatens to stall progress and, in some instances, reduce progress achieved to date on the outcomes. 
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The plight of healthcare workers on the front line

Healthcare professionals are without a doubt the heroes of 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic, frontline healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly to assist those in need.
 
They have done so with empathy and care, and all too often without the safety equipment or resources required to protect them, ultimately sacrificing their own lives, for ours.
 
If it was not already evident pre the pandemic it’s now clearer than ever that our health and healthcare as a practice should be one of our highest priorities.
Healthcare workers are the soldiers who work tirelessly to save, repair, rebuild and enable us to heal, irrespective of the cause of our illness.
Health is defined as the state of being free from illness or injury and as such, living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent chronic diseases and long-term illness. Poor health and injury limits economic opportunities and increases poverty within communities while placing strain on healthcare services and resources.
 
As the global population continues to grow and age, our economies and healthcare resources are becoming stretched, almost to breaking point, as evidenced by this pandemic. 
 
The adage of ‘prevention is better than cure’ could not be more apt, not just through vaccination programmes against disease but also through taking steps to actively promote health and holistic well-being.
 
This does not only promote longevity and decrease the strain on the healthcare system, it also enables economic growth and prosperity, which aids in alleviating poverty and building a sustainable future. 

The role business can play in wellness

Businesses around the globe have recognised that organisational success relies on employee wellness.
It is estimated that around 70% of all employers offer wellness programmes that are designed to assist employees both with physical health and mental wellness.
Research shows the benefits of these programmes, including reduced healthcare costs for both the employer and employee, reduced stress, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and increased morale.
 
When designed correctly, wellness programmes provide employees with the tools and support required to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours which in turn contributes to building a more prosperous and sustainable world.
 
Given the work from home and social distancing orders, our mental and physical well-being has no doubt been tested.  Many wellness programmes have adapted to provide online support with a conscious recognition that one of the largest, unintended side effects of the pandemic is the global impact on mental health.
 
As we navigate through this global challenge and all its consequent circumstances, we need to make a personal commitment to prioritising our well-being. 

What you can do to protect your most precious asset, your health

So, what can you do today to align to Goal 3 and prioritise your health and well-being? It is about making well-informed choices that promote healthy habits and protect your own health together with those around you.
 
You can raise awareness in your own family and wider community about the importance of good health and the direct impact that it has on our society, and inspire others through your own actions which may include one or more of the following:
 
  • Prioritise your physical health: eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. The World Health Organisation recommends taking at least 10,000 steps per day.
  • Avoid habits that are likely to increase your risk of illness and accidents, including smoking and excessive drinking.
  • Stay informed about how to prevent diseases, including speaking about sexual and reproductive health in your family.
  • Protect yourself and your family from disease through vaccinations.
  • ·Focus on your mental well-being and holistic wellness through practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and engaging with a life coach or therapist.
 
Good health is essential to sustainable development and prosperity. Our focus needs to be on building healthy societies on the foundation of policies, behaviours and systems that enable all to have access to healthcare.
 
More so, this means taking a proactive approach to prevent illness by shaping our behaviours, habits and ways of life that enhance our well-being and support others in doing the same. 

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As Sustainability is core to our fundamental investment approach, we have integrated ESG considerations into our investment decision making and broader investment process.