AstraZeneca and Plan India Create Awareness on Non-Communicable Diseases Among Lakhs of Children
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral factors. The main types of NCD are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and diabetes.
NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three-quarters of global NCD deaths – 31.4 million – occur. India is a diverse country, and many states are passing through an epidemiological health transition. Urbanization has led to economic improvement, the consequences of which are increased food consumption, tobacco use, and decreased physical activity.
One of the effects of this transition is a shift in the disease spectrum from communicable to non-communicable diseases.
A mundane life
Divya, a 17-year-old girl from Sangam Vihar, Delhi studies in class 12th. She hails from a four-member family, which includes her father, mother, and little sister. Her father works as a laborer, and her mother is a domestic help. She was one of the younger populations at risk of NCDs.
Divya loves to stay at home. She doesn’t enjoy outdoor physical activities and is unaware of their importance. She spends most of the time watching her father's mobile by excusing it as important for her studies. It was a routine for her during the lockdown, says her mother adding that Divya even ignored her friends.
Session at the HIC
Her family members noticed that she was at risk of NCDs because she was gaining weight and living an unhealthy lifestyle. They insisted on exercising at home but Diya ignored them.
But by November 2021, Divya’s life changed. She was introduced to the Young Health Programme, AstraZeneca, and Plan India’s global community investment initiative. It aims to help young people around the world to deal with the health problems they face and improve their chances for a better life in the future.
Initially, when Divya’s family introduced her to the programme, she was hesitant to attend the sessions. Though they were online, she kept ignoring the invites. However, after persuasion from her family and friends, she decided to try it.
In the first session, she was made aware of the risks of NCDs and preventive measures to be taken. Apart from this, she also got to participate in Zumba sessions. This held her attention and convinced her to attend more classes.
Spreading the word
In the following sessions, she learned about the significant risks associated with NCDs, took yoga lessons, played sports, and participated in other fun activities. But, Divya did not stop with only learning from YHP. She was informed about the peer educator system which allowed her to be a part of YHP as well as spread awareness to thousands of other children.
As a part of the peer educators program, youngsters get trained on YHP topics like NCD prevention and sexual and reproductive health. Further, they roll out sessions in the community and create awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and more. YHP assesses the gaps in the community on health services and does advocacy with government institutions to provide health services.
Spreading awareness in schools
Divya says, “The Young Health Programme has taught me that we must be physically active to avoid any medical problems and to live a happy life. With regular exercise, I am more focused on school, and not at risk of obesity. Now, I encourage more people from my community to come and join this initiative so that they can also make some changes in their life”
Even Divya’s father says that she merely takes his phone for games and that she is watchful of her screen time.
To date, Divya has disseminated key information on NCD risk factors among 500 people in the community. She has encouraged more than 200 young people to join the YHP and continues to impact more lives.