Non-Communicable Diseases are not old age ailments and many people don’t know it: How can we effectively address this issue, improve lifestyle habits, and stop this epidemic?

Non-Communicable Diseases are not old age ailments and many people don’t know it: How can we effectively address this issue, improve lifestyle habits, and stop this epidemic?

When we think of noncommunicable diseases, we imagine chronic health problems affecting older adults with long-term conditions that we may even associate with age. However, according to the data published by the PAHO, non-communicable diseases affect all socioeconomic groups, ages, and sexes.

One-third of deaths from non-communicable diseases that include cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic lung diseases, occur in people under the age of 70. Although they affect men and women equally, the majority of premature deaths (i.e., those occurring before the age of 70) happen in men. In the case of women, besides suffering from these conditions, they often carry the additional burden of being the primary caregivers of those who are ill.

In many cases, these conditions are preventable by reducing common risk factors such as tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and poor eating habits. As such, we can now confirm these are not age-related illnesses and there is still an ongoing challenge to figure out how we can target all age groups in order to influence their attitudes towards NCDs.

Communicating Effectively: An influence for change

There is a clear need for governments and other institutions to genuinely connect with their audiences and inspire a change in habits that will improve the quality of people’s lives for the long-term.

During the last century, the best way to send messages was through mass media like radio, TV and print. It used to be in a unidirectional way, and although these mediums are still used today, we now have other ways to communicate, thanks to the Internet. Social networks and digital media are a hub not only to send messages in a unidirectional way like in the past, but we can also establish contact and generate a dialogue with our audience.

Nowadays, we can learn, analyze and use data to understand the audience better, generate more effective messages, and explore areas of conversation. This allows us to make the necessary connections in order to motivate and change habits among patients suffering from a disease or those at risk for a non-communicable disease. This allows us to generate the right connections that will motivate changes and reduce the risks.

These connections are already widely used by brands and, in social communication, can be extremely useful to influence audiences in a bi-directional way. Digital channels are increasingly used to convey certain values as well as to influence users’ journeys and, ultimately, to make an impact.

While people want to talk to people, communication with institutions can sometimes seem distant and can lack influence. The way in which campaigns are designed to prevent risks and issue one-way messages without knowing the audience and without getting involved in their space or identifying ways of thinking and acting does not help to reduce risks.

The question is: What can we do to convince people about the importance of a change in habits?

It is not a question of what, but of who. It is a matter of importance for everyone, not just for the few. In order to reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases, improve the quality of life of millions of people, and reduce health system expenses, multilateral organizations such as the WHO and PAHO, together with other agencies and certain governments have taken this objective very seriously. However, in order to achieve a greater impact, it is necessary to involve a greater number of organizations, companies, and individuals.

The power of teamwork is essential for a collaborative approach that includes the greatest possible number of participants. This approach makes use of the Internet and the new technologies in order to create the most effective messages.

In addition, new partnerships and collaboration frameworks are required to implement a plan that moves people to act as soon as possible and that provides a faster solution for people suffering from these diseases to reduce risks, deaths, and premature deaths. We cannot do this without the collaboration of the public and private sectors that work hand in hand to prioritize activities focused on health promotion and prevention. This means promoting healthy habits and lifestyles through content that generates interest and generates the motivation to make a change for the better.

Ana LluchConsultora Senior LLYC Healthcare Américas

Ana LluchConsultora Senior LLYC Healthcare Américas