Wed | Aug 10, 2022

Benefits of adoptinghealthy behaviours

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2022 | 12:07 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or chronic diseases are a group of conditions that are not passed from person to person, progress slowly and are mainly of a long duration. NCDs include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic lower respiratory diseases, sickle cell disease, mental illness and injuries.

They usually result from a combination of genetic, environmental, behavioural and metabolic risk factors, such as physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol, air pollution, stress and overweight/obesity. The way people live, work and play contribute to this public health problem.

Prevention, management, or reversal of the modifiable risk factors can be achieved by practising a healthier lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is associated with improvement in an individual’s overall health status. However, non-compliance in Jamaica is pervasive and makes NCDs a significant threat. The challenge for the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) lies in inspiring persons to act in their own best interest.

According to Dr Nicola Skyers, head of the Non-Communicable Disease and Injury Prevention Unit at the MOHW, as countries emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, they have an opportunity to rethink the role of healthcare, especially NCDs in a post-pandemic future.

“Team members are ensuring that non-communicable disease public health education is not only a priority but that the overall strategies and innovations being undertaken include both population and individual level activities to inspire active and consistent health-seeking behaviours, drive policy enactments and operational efficiencies,” Dr Skyers said.

The MOHW’s public health education approach is aimed at meeting targeted public where they work, play or even worship. The innovations are designed so that there are safe spaces for people to raise their concerns.

“Creative products are crafted so that they resonate and speak the language of our different target publics, where the call for action is clearly stated as well as shifting focus to areas with the highest return to improve resilience, reduce health inequity, and promote greater individual, social, and economic well-being,” Dr Skyers said.

The strategies of the Non-Communicable Disease and Injury Prevention Unit are multifaceted as health behavioural change is a complex process. Informing people about the benefits of adopting healthy behaviours and the risks of unhealthy behaviours is not enough.

From a psychological standpoint, persons require both an initial motivation to change, followed by self-regulatory efforts to translate their intention into action to change their regular health behaviours. This calls for interventions that have been explicitly designed based on the evidence-based theories explaining the structural and psychological determinants of health behavioural change.

The unit is now spearheading a screening pilot in select clinics islandwide, developing various video tutorials that demonstrate, for example how to test your blood pressure, and has designed a television series dubbed, ‘Deliciously Healthy’ designed to encourage persons to be their own health advocate.

“Education and health are known to be highly correlated. We really need Jamaicans to recognise that, whilst, knowledge is power, your own commitment towards health seeking-behaviours is really where the power resides to make that needed difference to effectively prevent and control NCDs,” Dr Skyers said.

Dr Skyers and her team last year launched the very informative and friendly website: www.ncdip.moh.gov.jm. Persons may visit the website to access comprehensive information with key interventions for improved health literacy and knowledge translation, especially those relating to NCDs.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.comSOURCES: Ministry of Health & Wellness, Caribbean Public Health Agency