Preventative care model gains momentum as training goes online

Healthcare professionals throughout Africa are now able to receive online training in Brief Behavioural Change Counselling (BBCC), which equips them with the necessary skills to proactively help patients modify their lifestyles to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

The course material is funded by Pharma Dynamics and has been developed by top researchers from Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa (CDIA).

The eight-hour training course has been co-authored by Bob Mash, Head of Family Medicine and Primary Care at SU and Dr Zelra Malan, Postgraduate Programme Coordinator: Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care at SU.

Dr Malan says enabling primary care providers (PCPs) to effectively counsel patients on lifestyle modification and self-management has become a key priority for the National Department of Health and forms part of its strategic plan to control both communicable (HIV, TB) and non-communicable diseases (diabetes, hypertension) going forward.

“It intends to ‘re-orientate’ the primary healthcare system by placing more emphasis on prevention. Doctors and nurses have an important role to play, given their potential to intervene early on before chronic conditions take hold. At the moment, very little is being done to prevent lifestyle diseases. The existing healthcare system is skewed towards treating symptoms, which has led to a decline in population health and outrageously high medical costs. Evidence-based literature shows that 80% of chronic illnesses can be prevented, which if viewed from a purist’s perspective could also equate to an 80% saving in healthcare costs in the long run.”


She describes BBCC as a short intervention of 3 to 5 minutes – usually as part of the normal consultation, which ultimately aims to strengthen a patient’s beliefs about their own ability to change damaging lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking, substance use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity and risky sexual behaviour.

“Proactive, routine assessments of lifestyle risk behaviours and behaviour change counselling will become an essential component of primary care consultations. Many South Africans are living with CDLs, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, which accounts for 51% of deaths annually,” remarks Dr Malan.


For Pharma Dynamics, a leading provider of cardiovascular medication, prevention is key.

Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says, unfortunately, very few people pay attention to prevention and choose rather to wait until a health problem of some kind occurs. This typically results in a medical intervention and treatment, but despite doctors battling to fight chronic illness to the bitter end, the outcome doesn’t seem to match up with what they pour in.

“If we are to ever improve health outcomes, it will be due to changing health and wellness behaviours and not from spending millions of Rands on treating preventable diseases.”

“Ultimately, we should work towards a system that rewards healthcare professionals for preventing disease and holding patients individually accountable for behaviours that put them at a higher risk for certain diseases. Doctors and other healthcare staff should not underestimate the valuable role they can play in stemming the tide of CDLs,” reiterates Jennings.


The online BBCC course can be accessed via, costs R1 500 (incl VAT) and counts towards eight CPD points. Members of the South African Academy of Family Physicians qualify for a 15% discount.