Sunday, January 1, 2012

Achieving 'health literacy' necessay to control NCDs

Health in general is an area where the objectives of achieving good health are best achieved by following some basic principles: proper nutrition, hygiene and regular exercise. In  the present times the changes in our lifestyles have compromised all the three principles of good health.

Advances in control of once dreaded communicable diseases, thanks to anti-infective, vaccines and diagnostics, have had a positive effect on prolonging the average life-span of people all over. But the advent of changed lifestyle marked by reduced physical activity, excessive use of trans fats in food, fast-foods deficient in essential nutrients, increased consumption of sugar-salt-alcohol-tobacco, have together played a role in triggering high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in particular cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases.

The problem of NCDs growing incidence in the developing world is particularly alarming, where  incidence of NCDs increase cause double burden of diseases on already impoverished population. The causes may be again found to be associated with a combination of those NCDs promotion factors: lack of hygiene, poor nutrition, living conditions, high salt intake, tobacco and alcohol. Topped on this are open sale of low quality fats commonly used in food products,  adulteration of food items of common use sold in the  markets.

There are legislations, rules and regulations to prevent food adulteration, or for control of tobacco. But there is a big gap in regulations, and implementation of rules. For example, in Lucknow, we can easily find even now  a  shop next door to a school or hospital selling tobacco products. The governments do not implement total prohibition on sale of tobacco on ground of loss of revenues; this seems to be farse, as the same governments have to foot the health budget for NCDs control. There is somewhere a basic error in human endeavour to handle health, be it at national level or at  international level.

During those few months I have been communicating on issues of NCDs through this blog , I am convinced education and communication of health is the single most ammunition that alone can effectively check on the problem of growing NCDs. I remember someone had described literacy of four types: alphabetic literacy, science literacy, geographic literacy and health literacy. The last of these, the health literacy is best achieved by popular communication on health and diseases, and it enables an individual to take appropriate decisions to control his health. We must strive to achieve health literacy of masses!

About the control of NCDs in India, the Indian health minister Gulam Nabi Azad had recently said:Our goal is to develop a health system that is capable of preventing, diagnosing and managing NCDs in each district of the country. Towards this our efforts, in the coming years, would aim at providing universal access to basic services required for managing NCDs". Besides the above plan, what we need is to increase budget for health awareness, especially among school children.

To check NCDs globally, as well as in India, let us say the principal objective should be prevention and control by achieving total health literacy among school children. There are several  NGOs in India which are working hard with dedication to promote health awareness. The one I know closely is Cancer Aid Society (Lucknow, India) which has been running a school-based promotion of cancer awareness for several decades, besides working on promotion of measures for mitigation of  severe pain in advanced  cancer patients as an intervention of palliative care and even providing limited financial support to poor cancer patients.

My communications through blogging, and tweets on NCDs and their issues on Twitter I believe besides keeping me busy over the later part of the year 2011, have played in serving some role in spreading the message on NCDs prevention and care. What I relish more is the following now I have of  some very  educated, experienced and dedicated organisations, and individuals. 

Not the least, I have learnt some art of blogging, thanks to Blogger, and the Google resources, for easily available information resources on blogging. If the search engine optimization (SEO) had baffled me in the beginning, I am now comfortable with those terms and Alexa, as the great navigation tool. I wonder how this human ingenuity to continuously strive, build and improve to this high end intellectual revolution.

But in all this journey the health of people should not become a casualty.

I wish my friends, well wishers, the Google and Twitter staff teams, my followers and those I follow on Twitter, a very bright and fruitful new year, the year 2012. Blogging is a peasure that only a webmaster finds by seeing his creation in a website!

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