Sporty doc champions fitness on the frontline

Practice what you preach… Dr Arifa Parker is driving a campaign to promote an active and healthy lifestyle among health workers at Tafelsig Clinic.

Dr Arifa Parker, 31, knows all too well the pressures doctors and other healthcare workers face on a daily basis at public health facilities across the city, including Tafelsig clinic, where she is based. The past year has been especially tough, mentally and physically, she said.

Like her colleagues in the public health care system, she has had hands full keeping an eye on the well-being of her patients, her own health and that of staff members at the Tafelsig clinic, where she is based.

The spirited doc and mother of two obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Surgery and Medicine at the University Of Stellenbosch in 2013 and completed her internship at Groote Schuur Hospital and Community Service at Helderberg Hospital before joining the city of Cape Town two years ago.

“My decision to study medicine was inspired by my brothers’ Dr Salim Parker and Abdulla Parker as well as fulfilling my parents’ wishes.

“I enjoy working for the government as I have a passion to help people. I take an interest in primary health care and health promotion.” she said.

Dr Parker, who recently joined Ommiedraai Friends Running Club, was quick to jump at an opportunity to promote an active and healthy lifestyle among health officials when the City of Cape Town introduced its Live Well programme.

“The Live Well Challenge Reach was implemented to help combat fatigue and burn out, said Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien.

“Our staff are at the frontline, they know and feel first-hand the devastating impact of this pandemic,’ Dr Badroodien said.

For Dr Parker, it was an ideal opportunity to practice what she preaches. “I was fortunate to be appointed the champion for the programme and to implement the programme for the rest of the City staff.

“I was appointed to the champion and to implement the programme with the rest of the City staff,” she said. “It’s basically a programme to boost morale, it talks about healthy living and promotes well-being. How are we able to look after the community, if we are unable to look after ourselves?”

A few weeks ago, the doc and her colleagues gathered at the Thusong Centre, opposite the clinic on the corner of Kilimanjaro and Pyrenees Road, for a fun fitness event to mark the start of the campaign. “We had a physical aerobics session with the staff of Tafelsig Clinic and spoke about mental health awareness within the facility,” she said.

“As you know, the Covid pandemic has taken a lot, especially from our frontline workers. It’s good to know the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression and to know who to reach out for for support and help.

“Healthy living doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. It can be running in the park, it can be dancing with friends, skipping at home, whatever is easy for you,” she said.

“I take an interest in primary health care and health promotion. A large percentage of our population are suffering from chronic diseases of lifestyle due to bad health choices and substance abuse. I believe ‘prevention is better than cure’ and that if our communities are educated enough we can reduce the burden of disease,”she said.