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Prepared by Dr Arien van der Merwe
on behalf of
Celebrate Life! (Pty) Ltd
Health Stress Management (Pty) Ltd

Background & content outline

As Wellness Director of Celebrate Life! and Health Stress Management (Pty) Ltd, Dr. Arien van der Merwe acts as specialist corporate health and wellness service provider, advisor and consultant, workplace wellness educator trainer, stress expert, product and program developer to the health care industry, companies, governments, para-statal organisations, interest groups, websites and the media.

These companies assists other companies in recognising the importance and effects of workplace wellness, especially aimed at the chronic diseases of lifestyle, (incl. HIV/AIDS) programs, by identifying their impact through measurable return on investment protocols on company wellness investments. She advocates the importance of employees learning and understanding that managing and preventing health challenges will benefit both themselves and ultimately their employer (and livelihood) through the impact their health has on the bottom line of their company’s financial success.


Day 1-2: Definitions & models of wellness, wellness educator training, and a long term vision for wellness.
Day 3-4: Stress management, nutrition, fitness and wellness, basic anatomy & physiology know how your body and mind work.
Day 5-6: Heart & immune system health as example of an integrative learning approach. Other examples as requested by company.

Each participant gets opportunities to present lectures to the group as practice for the future. This forms part of their evaluation at the end of the course term.

WET is also about fun, fitness & laughter!
WET is also about fun, fitness & laughter!

WET poster presentations on health & wellness
WET poster presentations on health & wellness


After completion of this course, candidates should:

  • Be able to define & conceptualise wellness and peer educator training and understand the important effect of this approach for lasting health and wellness behaviour change. Peer educator training is associated with HIV/Aids training. Peer educators prefer the wellness educator training to help them reach more employees, and receive a more positive and optimistic response.
  • Understand what an integrative approach to health and wellness means.
  • Be able to use the heart and immune system as an integrative model to address the chronic diseases (or rather, health challenges) of lifestyle (CDL’s).
  • Be able to understand the benefit in regarding HIV/Aids as one of the CDL’s, rather than a loose standing entity
  • Be able to present a series of lectures to their peers.


The output will include:

  1. Training Curriculum
  2. Training Manuals: Wellness Educators

Additional suggestions to enhance training:

  • Posters per topic as teaching aids
  • Video recording, assessment and feedback of presentations by wellness educators and trainers at 1st and last training session. Observing one’s own presentation is of inestimable value to enhance presentation skills, connection with audience and self esteem.
  • Evaluation process of training outcomes and knowledge gained, with certificates on successful completion of training modules. This will be done through a written paper, as well as the practical presentation.

Central to our understanding of the training is that there is a recognised need for a broader approach to employee health and wellness, as opposed to the previous focus on HIV/AIDS only. The wellness educator training programs encourage an integrated approach to addressing all the chronic diseases of lifestyle as identified during the preliminary discussions with the company, and through our research on disease profiles in South Africa.

Also central to our understanding of the assignment is that wellness educator training will, of course, have a much further extension than only the workplace: it reaches into the family, the community, ultimately having an effect on the health and wellbeing of the whole country.

Wellness educator trainers are there to impart knowledge and practical information, encourage, support, and promote healthy living, to create a ripple effect throughout the workforce, families and communities. It is quite clear from the feedback reports that peer educator training could also become a very effective employee assistance program (EAP).

To summarise wellness educators’ comments on what they learnt during recent training sessions:

  • Most people don’t know how or what they should eat. The training taught us and now I can teach them.
  • We also learnt the importance of emotional & mental “food” and wellbeing and how important the way we think, is for our wellness
  • I know more about how my body works. How it all fits in together, and the importance of nutrition, exercise, meditation. Now I can teach others.
  • We learnt to check labels for the nutritional value of food. I’m more aware of healthy food choices and show it to others. I’ve started to adapt my grocery list to make healthier food choices. In the shop others ask me what I’m checking and I explain to them right there in the shop.
  • When our group eat together at work, I eat healthier and also then show others: cold drinks, pap with greasy gravy, and chips should be replaced by water, fruit, vegetables, peanuts and yogurt. And, it’s not more expensive! Even the woman who sells the food has been bringing healthier food to sell at her informal store during our lunch breaks at work!
  • We learnt about the importance of water and to drink clean water regularly
  • We know now how important sleep is for our bodies to recover and rest. Also to sleep in darkness and quiet, even if we work night shift
  • We think wellness should be a part of SHE (safety, health and environment of occupational health) programs as well
  • Since I started being a Peer Educator my life has changed a lot because I know how to deal with stress and I can also manage my budget.
  • Before, when I was sad or people upset me, I used to cry and feel lonely, but now I feel much better. I feel stronger inside. I know that I can accept things and I can do some breathing exercise and meditate. Then I stay in control of my thoughts and feelings. That helps me to deal with situations a lot better.
  • I know the right food for me and my family. No more stress! I save a lot of money because the healthy food is cheaper than the fancy food
  • I’m now able to talk to others, approach people correctly, stay aware and not become involved in their story: if they’re negative, I can stay positive and help them to be more positive
  • At work also now I’m in the spotlight because when you are a peer educator people look at you and then you become a leader, even if you don’t notice. Even management takes a look at you to be a leader. So now I can speak to people and people will listen. Before, I was scared to talk to management. Now I’m not! So all I can say is then I have grown personally.
  • I knew I had it in me, but this training has helped me develop to take a positive leadership role, gain knowledge, learn more about health & wellness, and to help others do the same. I want to spread this knowledge to my community.
  • My life has changed so much after being a peer educator:
    • Because I know the importance of knowing my total health status, not only my HIV status
    • I know how to manage my stress and anger
    • I’ve started to talk at community gatherings to also make them more aware. Some listen, some don’t. I know not to become upset. I can’t change people, I can only plant the seeds. Each one changes when ready
  • I was very happy to be one chosen to be a Peer Educator. I thought God had an aim about my life, because I was so scared to stand in front of people, but now it is easy, to stand and share some important views about healthy things to my colleagues and also community and my family, it changes me a lot. I feel free inside
  • As I was doing these programs of wellness I gained a lot of knowledge; life changing behavior; know how to deal with problems easily and reducing bad habits like too much smoking, alcohol and sex caused by stress. From 6 beers a day I only take 6 a month, 30 cigarettes a day and now stopped. My brain can think, my body feels good. I found other ways to deal with stress: walking, exercise and breathing.
  • Since I’ve become a peer educator, I have become more aware of health issues. I personally have learned to cope with stress a lot better and to manage anger as well. I no longer use blood pressure medication, for my blood pressure is much more stable and under control. The breathing exercises, meditation and awareness of upsetting emotions help me to control my anger better. I have more inner calmness.
  • All the peer educators had a chance to do a 10 minute presentation, and even Martha, who only joined the day before the actual 2nd training session, had her say as the last presenter of 15 peer educators! Here is a transcript of her presentation:

‘Hi my name is Martha. I just want to say thank you to myself for joining as a peer educator, because you know what? According to my own point of view, I thought the word ‘peer educator’ was more about communication between your peers about AIDS, and I often became bored with these topics. Thank you all very much for the knowledge I’ve gained today, and about health. The only thing that I knew about health was to eat healthy food, HIV diseases and to exercise -that is the main thing I knew about health, but today I learnt a lot! How to make decisions and life choices is also health. I was so amazed. Happiness is also health. Wellness and lifestyles are also health. To lead by example, more especially we peer educators: you must always practice what you preach. You can’t tell somebody don’t smoke when immediately after the break started, you smoke, then they would say these people are just lying to us! To understand other people’s culture and religion, I was also not aware it was part of people’s health. To sleep enough, I thought maybe you should just sleep four hours as long as you have rest, I was unaware that this was part of health. I thank myself and all my fellow partners, to see myself being here today and become a peer educator, it means I gained a lot and can teach more and more. I study for my family and fellow workers, also my community. Thank you!’

Ronald Tshabalala from Metro Rail said the following after his 1st training module:
‘My understanding of life has changed. Now I know how to take it one day at a time. I don’t have to rush because I understand a certain truth: it is the truth that was taught here that made me calm and balanced. What I’m saying, is that this was for me a pivotal point, a life changing event! I won’t look back again. Thank you for depositing yourself into a stranger’s life. You have just saved me, my family and my nation. I am eternally grateful!’

Examples of the chronic diseases of lifestyle (CDL’s) contributing to the burden of disease in the workplace (In wellness terminology CDL’s are preferably referred to as HEALTH CHALLENGES):

  • Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Depression
  • Lung diseases, e.g. asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, Tuberculosis
  • Arthritis


Training manuals and handbook modules: Sample of content to be discussed with Project Team for inclusion in the training manuals and handbook modules

  1. My wellness profile
  2. My stress profile
  3. Why did I become a wellness educator?
  4. What are the qualities of a good wellness educator? (Group activity)
  5. Since becoming a wellness educator, what have you as a group, been doing to promote wellness, and/or what would you like to accomplish? (Group activity)

Anatomy 101:
Know your body from outside, in (LECTURE 1)
Organs and systems (LECTURE 2)

Physiology 101:
The cell and its functions (LECTURE 3)
The food story: back to basics (LECTURE 4)

Understanding stress (LECTURE 5)
Stress anatomy & physiology(LECTURE 5)
Symptoms of stress (LECTURE 6)
The body’s involvement with stress (LECTURE 6)
Stress, chronic disease and other health challenges (LECTURE 7)
Stress and substance abuse (LECTURE 8)
Stress solutions (LECTURE 9-12)

Definitions & Aspects (LECTURE 13)
Wellness versus disease management, Iceberg Model, Illness-Wellness Continuum (LECTURE 14, 15)
Nutrition (LECTURE 16-18)
Wellness food garden (LECTURE 19, 20)
Thoughts, emotions, health, dis-ease with additional notes on neuropeptides, the molecules of emotion (LECTURE 21-23)
The chronic diseases of lifestyle and other health challenges:
Opening your heart

  1. Heart health: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke (LECTURE 24-28)
  2. Immune system health:
    • HIV/Aids (LECTURE 29-32)
    • Colds, flu (LECTURE 33, 34)
    • Cancer (LECTURE 35)
  3. Mental health: depression (LECTURE 36)

Looking for the sweetness in life
Blood sugar balance: Diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, low blood sugar (LECTURE 37-40)

Endocrine health: Male & Female reproductive health and sexuality (LECTURE 41-44)

Breathing in the life force
Respiratory health: Tuberculosis (LECTURE 45, 46)

Natural & integrative medicine
Practical wellness solutions for health challenges (LECTURE 47-52)

Integrating what you’ve learnt so far (Revision)

  • The training & manuals will address the chronic lifestyle diseases / health challenges, or/and as specifically requested by the client during the initial meeting and discussions: e.g. heart health, including hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attack risk; lungs, including TB; immune system health e.g. HIV/AIDS, colds & flu, cancer; musculoskeletal health e.g. arthritis; endocrine health e.g. reproductive system and diabetes mellitus.
    • Training & manuals will be planned and presented so that wellness educators can present weekly or monthly lectures or talks over a period of 1 year. The specifics are to be discussed during the initial meeting. More basic information will be provided to trainers and peer educators, so that their base of knowledge will extend the content of their talk or lecture sessions. This will be done via a comprehensive handbook. They will then be able to answer questions and feel comfortable with the topics addressed during interaction with their peers.
    • The manuals and handbook will be in black & white with certain colour graphs, diagrams, photographs and sketches, with enough space for trainees to make side notes. Specifics to be finalised once discussed with the project team.
    • Basic general information will form the basis of the training, manuals and handbook: basic anatomy and physiology of how the human body works, symptoms and signs of specific illnesses, treatment options, lifestyle modification including nutrition, basic remedies, emotional issues, thought awareness, exercise, relaxation techniques.
    • Details and educational level of training sessions & manuals, content, layout, design and print options, are to be discussed at the initial meeting.
  • Each trainee and wellness educator will receive a certificate of completion issued by the Company and ourselves.
  • It is recommend that posters also be developed as training aids: 6 laminated, A3 size posters on each health related topic mentioned above, to display in meeting areas. Number of sets to be confirmed e.g. 6 posters on each topic, for notice boards, canteens, toilets.
  • It is recommend that video recordings and assessments of trainee presentations during the 1st and last training session, be a part of the training.
  • It is recommended that Dr Arien van der Merwe’s books ‘Health & Happiness’ and ‘Stress Solutions’, as well as the relaxation CD (books & CD @ R100 each) be made available to wellness educators and trainers, either each receiving their own copies as study material, or copies made available to them should they want to read up, research and learn more.
  • It is recommended that the training takes place at a venue away from the place of work to ensure trainees’ full attention and participation. For practical reasons, it is recommended that, if possible, it will be at the same place, or close to where the consultant would be staying.
  • Training & presentation requirements
    • The consultant will use her own laptop computer
    • A data projector to be provided by the client
    • A CD player for the music and dance exercises that form part of the training to be provided by the client



We have introduced ourselves as Celebrate Life and Health Stress Management. Within this entity there exists a vast collection of experience and expertise available through sub-contracting and co-operacy agreements with other relevant role players in the field of workplace wellness. The responsibilities of the team will include the following roles:

  • Project definition
  • Project management and liaison
  • Review of resources, tools, documents and reports
  • Development of curricula, training tools and handbooks
  • Logistical planning
  • Technical planning and research
  • Communication and educational media planning and implementation
  • Analysis of opportunities to integrate with National efforts
  • Consider an holistic approach to employee health and wellness at the workplace
  • Pilot testing
  • Project output evaluation

The WELLNESS EDUCATOR TRAINING will be undertaken by Dr Arien van der Merwe personally, with the help of assistants all trained by her, depending on the number of trainees and scope of training as decided upon. Dr Arien van der Merwe will take full responsibility for all course content, manuals, handbook and facilitation of the complete training program. If required, outsourced companies will provide project management services, research into company specific health profiles, assistance with gap analysis and assistance with training. This will be done by an allocated project team, who will also draw on the skills and experience of the other directors consultants as required.

Curriculum vitae summary of training consultant

CV summaries of all directors available on request

Dr. Arien van der Merwe

Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB (Pretoria) FRIPH (London) MISMA (UK) is a medical doctor and author with extensive experience in natural and complementary medicine, stress management, workplace wellness and health promotion through well researched health and wellness products and sustainable interventions. She has been elected Fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Health (FRIPH) in the UK for the work she does in South Africa to promote public health and wellness through education, training and communication. She is a Member of the International Stress Management Association, UK branch.

For 2 ½ years, Arien was the appointed Stress Expert to Discovery Health and Business Owner of the Stress Centre on DiscoveryWorld, As director of Health Stress Management (Pty) Ltd, Arien acts as wellness advisor and consultant, workplace wellness educator trainer, stress expert, product and program developer to the health care industry, companies, interest groups, websites and the media.

As an accomplished author of many books and training manuals, the focus of her work is on addressing and finding lasting wellness solutions for the chronic diseases of lifestyle (CDL’s), among these especially heart disease, HIV & Aids, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, lung disease, osteoarthritis, depression and cancer. At present she mostly does this through wellness educator training.

She assists companies in recognising the importance and effects of workplace wellness & CDL, (incl. HIV/AIDS) programs, by identifying their impact through measurable return on investment protocols on company wellness investments. She advocates the importance of employees learning and understanding that managing preventable health conditions will benefit both themselves and ultimately their employer (and livelihood) through the impact their health has on the bottom line of their company’s financial success.

Another work focus is putting the ‘H’ back in SHE (Safety, Health & Environment), a very practical tool for companies in the mining, production and manufacturing industries. Safety is of main concern to companies, but it is often neglected or not known, that physical wellness plays a major role in safety – e.g. presenteeism (employees being at work but not feeling optimally well) from high blood pressure (headaches), sleep deprivation and low blood sugar (low concentration, fatigue, irritability) are major hazards when operating heavy machinery and vehicles.

Dr van der Merwe’s recent books are ‘Health & Happiness’, ‘Herbal Remedies’ and ‘Stress Solutions’ (all HSM Publishers). She also released a relaxation CD especially aimed at newcomers to meditation and relaxation techniques. She writes training manuals and presents regular wellness educator training, stress management and workplace wellness talks, workshops, courses and seminars. Dr Arien developed and facilitates three accredited Short Courses on Wellness Educator Training, Stress Management and Workplace Wellness, through the University of Pretoria.

Past & current experience

Minopex Peer Educator training: Ongoing training, facilitation, manuals, posters.

TCTA appointment as specialist Corporate Health & Wellness Service Provider

Metro Rail Wellness Educator training: Ongoing training, facilitation, manuals, books, posters. Training adapted to different levels of employee education.

SAFCOL management committee ongoing Stress Course, incorporating a guided and supported 12 weeks to wellness program

Exxaro (previously KUMBA Resources & ISCOR): Various ongoing interventions – 12 weeks to wellness program for EXCO group, peer educator training, work-life balance workshops, women’s health workshops, monthly practical stress management seminars

NOSHCON International Conference: Paper on ‘Workplace wellness as occupational risk management tool’. Requested to also present at their August 2008 International Convention on ‘Putting the ‘H’ back in SHEQ”

HR Future breakfast: Absenteeism management in the workplace, including a regular monthly column.

The Women’s Show: ongoing talks at the annual Jhb & Cape Town shows since 2006
Longevity magazine: Women’s health talks in Johannesburg & Cape Town.
Fair Lady magazine: Countrywide menopause workshops
Discovery Health, LA Health, Vitality Program, Discovery Institute: Health, wellness, stress management, work-life balance talks, workshops, courses to members, health partners, corporate clients.
Nedbank Women’s Forum: Practical stress management & work-life balance workshops
Investec Bank: Stress management and work-life balance talks and workshops
ABSA Card Division: Work-life balance interventions and protocols to employees
Nissan: Assistance in planning and implementing employee wellness interventions
Law Society of Northern Provinces: Stress introductory talk
Barlow World: Wellness seminar
Novartis: Ongoing workshops on the stress / IBS link
RMB: Employee stress course of 1 hour per week over 6 weeks
Alexander Forbes: Stress and wellness talks
NMG: Stress and wellness talks
KPMG: Work-life balance talks


The spin offs from the basic training in health, wellness and an integrative whole being approach to the chronic diseases of lifestyle, are unexpected, surprising and very encouraging. It is also a clear indication of the success of wellness educator training as a workplace wellness intervention, and the only intervention to consistently demonstrate long term, lasting and sustainable, health behaviour change. Developing life skills and leadership qualities, experiencing personal growth, learning to manage emotions, increased self esteem and self confidence, lowering blood pressure, all adding to the increase in knowledge on health and wellness, show that wellness educator training has to be one of the best return on investment wellness programs available today. WET is also becoming a powerful EAP tool.

Our contact details:

Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB FRIPH MISMA

23 Twentieth St, Menlo Park, Pretoria

Tel. 012 460 0191


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