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The ObeCity healthy weight ranking lists the healthiest to least healthy city in South Africa.
The ObeCity healthy weight ranking lists the healthiest to least healthy city in South Africa.

Press release -

Discovery Vitality reveals “ObeCity Index” showing the South African city with the healthiest weight ahead of World Obesity Day; launches Vitality HealthyWeight programme

Johannesburg, 1 March 2023 - Discovery Vitality today announced the results of a national study comparing members’ collective weight across South African cities. The results show that Vitality members in Cape Town have the healthiest weight, while Gqeberha has the most room to improve.

The ObeCity healthy weight ranking lists the healthiest to least healthy cities as follows:

  1. Cape Town
  2. Johannesburg
  3. Durban
  4. Pretoria
  5. Bloemfontein
  6. Gqeberha

Discovery Vitality CEO Dinesh Govender says: “We analysed almost 300,000 Vitality Health Checks completed across South Africa in 2022 to rank the cities according to the proportion of Vitality members who have a healthy weight.”

“Globally, research shows good nutrition and physical activity are important for managing weight. That is why we also analysed members’ physical activity and food purchasing data to give us insights into our members’ exercise and eating habits,” says Govender.

The results show that:

  • Johannesburg had the highest percentage of members logging a workout, while Bloemfontein had the lowest.
  • Cape Town members had the highest percentage of healthy food purchases, while those in Pretoria had the least.

“The obesity epidemic is a global challenge that is on the rise, and, as a nation, we have one of the highest rates worldwide – more than half of South African adults are overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for good health, as it helps prevent and even manage health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure,” says Govender.

“The health risks associated with excess weight account for almost 3 million lives lost worldwide each year. We hope that the ObeCity Index highlights possible solutions, not only for Vitality members but for all South Africans. This will go a long way towards achieving our core purpose of making people healthier using behavioural, clinical, and actuarial science to encourage positive behaviour change for the long term,” he says.

A solution for Vitality members

To enable more people to reach and maintain a healthy weight, Vitality has launched the Vitality HealthyWeight programme, with the primary goal of supporting members who face greater health risks from being overweight or obese.

“Vitality HealthyWeight is a fully-personalised digital weight-management programme that gives members access to their very own dietitian, at the most affordable rates – starting from R250. From grocery shopping to cooking and meal preparation to the psychology of eating behaviours, members will get encouragement and personalised support five days a week to help them achieve their weight goals,” says Govender.

Discovery Vitality is a behaviour-change platform that guides and incentivises people towards better health, driving and financial behaviour by combining insights from behavioural economics with clinical and data science. Engaged members are more physically active, buy healthier food and live longer lives than those who are not engaged.

The Vitality HealthyWeight programme leverages this successful model. It complements Vitality’s robust physical activity platform, and members will be supported holistically from a nutritional, psychological, and fitness perspective.

“We’ve also built incentives into the programme, because we know that this works to nudge people towards good health,” Govender adds. Members on the programme will get 1,000 Vitality points after their four-week check-in.

“We want to see good health outcomes for those in our care and create positive behaviour change for the long term. It is not about fad diets and unhealthy methods for quick weight loss. Our goal is to have Vitality HealthyWeight enable sustainable, healthy weight loss for those who require it,” he concludes.

  • Click here to complete a health check and find out if you are at a healthy weight.

Notes to editors

Why weight is a heavy burden in healthcare

Globally, people are struggling with excess weight gain, and it is a leading indication of poor health outcomes. The World Health Organization estimates that 39% of adults are overweight, and 13% are obese.

Carrying excess weight can diminish almost every aspect of a person’s health, including increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Based on Discovery data, Vitality members who are overweight or obese experience significant increases in healthcare claims. The risk of these comorbidities increases as members move further out of the healthy‑weight range.

Balancing the scales – how to measure overweight and obesity

Dr Mosima Mabunda, Head of Wellness at Discovery Vitality, says that in tackling overweight and obesity, we must first ensure the scales are balanced when we measure for these conditions.

“Overweight and obesity are defined as excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Body mass index or BMI (weight in relation height) is most widely used in clinical settings. This is due to it being easy to measure and calculate. It has also been shown to be a good proxy for health risks associated with excess weight..”

“BMI – calculated as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres – is also a well-known predictor of health and mortality outcomes. Globally, research shows that a person’s risk of death increases at BMI ranges higher than 25. Those with a BMI range over 30 face the highest health risks,” she says.

However, Mabunda adds that an important limitation of BMI is that it cannot distinguish between fat and lean mass, meaning that certain people, such as those with increased muscle mass, may be incorrectly classified as overweight.

Vitality assesses weight status using BMI together with waist circumference to mitigate against the limitations of BMI.

“Assessing weight status using BMI together with waist circumference improves weight status classification. Waist circumference is highly correlated to visceral fat (fat stored around the abdominal organs), and an increased waist circumference is also associated with an increased disease risk. These measurements are good indicators to track and prevent possible serious health issues,” she says.

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Discovery information

About Discovery

Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, banking, savings and investment and wellness markets. Since inception in 1992, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-Value insurance model, active in 40 markets, impacting 40 million lives. The model is exported and scaled through the Global Vitality Network, an alliance of some of the largest insurers across key markets including AIA (Asia), Ping An (China), Generali (Europe), Sumitomo (Japan), John Hancock (US), Manulife (Canada) and Vitality Life & Health (UK, wholly owned). Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as DSY. Follow us on Twitter @Discovery_SA

About Discovery Vitality

Vitality is the largest global platform for behaviour change, underpinning the insurance products of leading insurers worldwide, impacting 30 million lives in 40 markets. The Vitality model, established by Discovery Limited in South Africa, has been incentivising behaviour change amongst its clients for over 25 years. Vitality creates shared value by combining behavioural economics, clinical science, and financial incentives to encourage and reward members for taking steps to improve their health. The model began with a focus on health and wellness and has expanded to include short-term insurance, investments, and financial wellness. For more information, please visit the Vitality website or email the Discovery Media Relations team. Follow us on Twitter @Vitality_SA


Zeenat Moorad

Zeenat Moorad

Press contact Senior Reputation Manager Banking | Vitality | Sponsorships
Sesona Ngqakamba

Sesona Ngqakamba

Press contact Reputation Management Consultant Banking | Vitality | Sponsorships

Our core purpose and values guide us in all we do. A clear and profound promise: to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives.

Discovery is a shared value insurance company whose purpose and ambition are achieved through a pioneering business model that incentivises people to be healthier, and enhances and protects their lives.

Discovery Limited
Discovery Group Limited, 1 Discovery Place, Sandton
2196 Johannesburg
South Africa