Wednesday, April 7th is World Health Day

April 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

April 7 is World Health Day.

This year’s theme for World Health Day is “1000 cities, 1000 lives.” The Day is set on April7, 2010 but events are planned worldwide from April 7 to 11.

Here are the global goals of World Health Day 2010:

•1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles.

•1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities.

So far, over 600 cities all over the world have already registered to join the campaign.

But why are we focusing on cities? These facts and figures from the World Health Organization tells us why:

  • More than 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas.
  • By 2030, 6 out of 10 people will be living in cities, by 2050 it will be 7 of out 10.
  • About a third of the world’s urban population (more than 1 billion people!) live in urban slums.
  • The rate at which urbanization has taken place over the last few decades is well-illustrated by a look at how long it took a city to grow from one million to eight million inhabitants. For London, this growth took around 130 years. For Bangkok, similar growth took 45 years. For Seoul, it took only 25 years.
  • Between 1995 and 2005 alone, the urban population of developing countries grew by an average of 1.2 million people per week, or around 165 000 people every day.
  • Most rapid growth will take place in cities of 1 to 10 million people; it is not just a megacity issue.
  • The speed of urbanization has outpaced the ability of governments to build essential infrastructures that make life in cities safe, rewarding, and healthy, particularly in low-income countries.

The speed of urbanization has outpaced the ability of governments to build essential infrastructures that make life in cities safe, rewarding, and healthy, particularly in low-income countries.

Problems that many urban dwellers have to deal with are:

  • Poor living conditions, including lack of housing, water and sanitation
  • Lack of access to social and health services
  • Increased risk for violence, chronic disease, and for some communicable diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera)
  • Increased risk for chronic diseases due to lack of physical exercise, poor nutrition, and air pollution
  • Increase rates of psychological and behavioral problems among urban dwelling children.
  • Overcrowing, unemployment, cultutal dislocation and isolation
  • Increased rate of substance, tobacco, and alcohol abuse

To address these challenges, the World Health Day Campaign identified 5 key areas for action:

Urban planning promoting healthy behaviours and safety. Local governments and civil society can design urban areas to promote physical activity through investment in active transport; encourage healthy eating by managing availability and access to fresh food; and reduce violence and crime through good environmental design and regulatory controls, including managing the number of alcohol outlets.

Improve urban living conditions. Apply healthy urban design principles with easy access to basic amenities and services, designated commercial and non-commercial land use, with land also set aside for protection of natural resources and recreation. One of the biggest challenges is, of course, access to adequate shelter for all. The quality of housing and adequate access to services such as water and sanitation are vital contributors to health.

Participatory urban governance. Local participatory governance mechanisms should be established that enable communities and local governments to partner in building healthier and safer cities.

Inclusive cities are accessible and age-friendly. People with disabilities make up at least 10% of the population, and access barriers prevent participation in education, employment and public life. Globally, populations are rapidly ageing, leading to more older people, many of whom will experience mobility and sensory impairments. Measures such as accessible public transit, kerb cuts, safe pedestrian crossings (e.g. tactile paving, signaled controlled crossings) all improve safety and enhance participation for disabled and older persons.

Making urban areas resilient to emergencies and disasters. Improving the ability of the community to protect themselves from all types of hazards, and involving the health sector in community-led local emergency response planning and training, will help to reduce risks and provide a more effective emergency response. The development of settlements and infrastructure away from natural and technological hazard-prone areas, and safer health facilities which are prepared for emergencies will make communities safer. All-hazard health emergency management systems, with the ability to provide safe and secure health services, food and water, water, protection and shelter in humanitarian settings is needed to minimize loss of life and disabilities in emergencies, disaster and other crises.

Follow World Health Day Events by checking their social media site!

November is Diabetes Month

November 5, 2009 by  
Filed under DIABETES

medic_alert_braceletNovember is the month focused on diabetes. It is only right that we take a look at what we know about this condition.

Diabetes mellitus is a group of chronic conditions characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood. This high glucose levels were due to disruption in insulin production, diminished action of insulin, or both. Diabetes is incurable but manageable.

There are several types of diabetes mellitus, namely:

  • Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile diabetes and accounts for 5 to 10% of all diabetes cases.
  • Type 2 diabetes is also known as noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or adult diabetes and accounts for 90 to 95% of all diabetes cases.
  • Pregnancy or gestational diabetes occurs in about 5% of all pregnant women.
  • There are rare types of diabetes which account for 1 to 5% of all cases of diabetes.

The statistics

Some statistics from the American Diabetes Association (ADA):

  • 24 million children and adults in the United States live with diabetes
  • 57 million Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes
  • 1 out of every 3 children born today will face a future with diabetes if current trends continue.

The campaign

In the US, lots of events have been scheduled to observe the National Diabetes Month. Some are as follows:

The video series

The said series is a collection of online educational video clips to give practical tips and advice for living with the disease. The videos were developed in collaboration with Liberty Medical and can be viewed online at www.stopdiabetes.com under the “learn” section. Topics covered include

  • symptoms
  • risks
  • weight management tips
  • exercise tips
  • an overview of
  • insulin delivery methods
  • tips on caring for a parent
  • understanding the ABCs of diabetes – A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol measurements

Community events

Some of the local events include

Other resources on diabetes:

Coming up: World Diabetes Day on November 14.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Harnessing the power of social media to #beatcancer

October 20, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

beatcancerRemember the post I had a couple of months back on how the Internet is spreading health news? Well, this was recently demonstrated by the #beatcancer campaign whose aim was to get into the Guinness Book of World Record as the most number of social media messages in a span of 24 hours. The campaign achieved started on October 16 at 9 am PDT and ended at the same time the following day with a total of 209,771 social messages. But before we continue, let us first try to define social media. Can we? We can only try except that there are too many definitions out there. My favorite definition is from bottlepr which says that social media are:

“…software tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content.”

Examples of social media tools are YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Twitter, etc. but there are many more.

Now the #beatcancer campaign did not go for all of these but only for the two most popular ones – twitter and facebook. When I logged in to my twitter account on October 17, I got a message that says there are too many tweets coming, thus I’d have to wait for a moment. That was the first time ever that I got such a message.

So who’s behind the campaign?

“#BeatCancer is a social media experiment and movement created by Everywhere, a social media communications and content company based in Atlanta, Georgia. [The purpose is] …to see if they could compete to set a record for the distribution of the largest mass message through social media.”

But it wasn’t just any other social media publicity stunt. It was for the benefit of a social cause, a cancer that everybody knows – battling cancer.

For every tweet, Facebook update, or blog post mentioning “#beatcancer”, corporate sponsors Ebay/Paypal and MillerCoors Brewing Company donated a penny to the cause.

The beneficiaries are four non-profit organizations accredited by The American Cancer Society, and are listed below:

  • Stand Up To Cancer is a new initiative created to accelerate groundbreaking cancer research, getting new therapies to patients quickly and saving lives.
  • Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s mission is to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes and educate others, especially children, to raise money for childhood cancer by holding their own lemonade stands.
  • Bright Pink is a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Spirit Jump is a grassroots non-profit organization with a mission to provide hope and comfort to the many men, women and children battling cancer.

The record has been set but the campaign in not over. Check out the #beatcancer site to see how you can help.

Battling stroke by fighting salt: the Portuguese strategy

June 23, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

saltPortugal has one of the highest mortality rates due to stroke in Western Europe and this has been attributed to the high salt intake of the population. Many Portuguese traditional food – including the salted fish delicacy bacalhau (salted cod) – contains high amounts of sodium chloride. However, even the normal daily fare such as bread also contains a lot of salt. The result is that the Portuguese population, take in, on the average, twice the amount of the recommended daily salt intake. -the stroke rate there is twice that of coronary disease.

A group of health led by Dr. Luis Martin of the Fernando Pessoa University formed the Portuguese Action Against Salt and Hypertension (PAASH) and conducted studies on Portuguese salt consumption habits and the health consequences. The results show that:

  • An adult consumes on average 11.9 g of sodium per day, two times the recommended daily intake.
  • Portuguese bread contains an average of 19.2 g of sodium per kg, which is 53% more than what is found in bread in other European countries. This highly contributes (21%) to the daily sodium intake.
  • The amount of salt by consumed by the population correlated with blood pressure and aortic stiffness.
  • In 2007, only 29% of the Portuguese population was aware of the health risks of excessive salt consumption

The PAASH advocates saw an immediate need for action to increase awareness and reduce salt consumption. They estimated that “a reduction of just 1 g per day of salt intake would save almost 2500 lives per year in Portugal, which has a population of around 10 million.”

Dr. Martin then started a massive awareness campaign in print and web media, as well as on on radio and TV. They persuaded politicians and well-known celebrities, including star football players and children’s cartoon characters, to help spread the word about the health risks of salt.

Dr. Martin explains the success of

“If they want to influence the people, they must act like politicians. And to get the attention of the politicians, we needed the media. Without the media in Portugal, it’s not possible.”

It seems that the campaign is starting to bear fruit.

  • A recent survey showed that awareness has increased up to 75% of the population.
  • They persuaded the Portuguese Bakery Association to cooperate by coming up with a recipe that provides for lower salt content without losing taste or quality.
  • They lobbied with legislators, resulting in the passing of a law by the Portuguese Parliament that requires food labels to show salt content of food products as well as and limits the sodium content in processed foods to a maximum of 14 g/kg.

With these results, the Portuguese has set a good example to the rest of Europe and the world that health awareness campaigns do work.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

April 8 is US National Start! Walking Day

April 8, 2009 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

sneakersNo more excuses. The sun is shining, the birds are singing. Springtime is here. Take your sneakers.

Because today is National Start! Walking in the US.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following to start your day at work today:

But why walk?

Simply speaking, walking keeps you healthy and makes you live longer. An hour of exercise can supposedly prolong your lifespan by two hours. That’s really good return for your investment!

Looking more into details as to how walking can make us live longer, here’ what, according to AHA can a 30-minute do to you:

  • Reduce risk for coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Improve blood lipid profile (cholesterol, triglycerides)
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Improve blood sugar levels.
  • Keep body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast, colon, and other cancers
  • Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Enhance mental well being

In recent years, the American lifestyle has become more sedentary, leading to increase incidence in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Through the Start! Walking campaign, AHA is trying to counteract the sedentary lifestyle and reverse its effects.

The abovementioned recommendations are aimed for working individuals and the organizations they are working for. Start! Walking, however, should be for everybody from all walks of life, from the very young to the very old.

The Start! Walking message is simple: Walk more. Eat well. Live longer. Even if you miss the starting day today, you can start tomorrow. Or anytime you want. The main thing is to start doing it.

It’s not only AHA who’s encouraging us to get moving this April. Check other walking events:

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.