Battling the Leader of Death

There are many illnesses, diseases and ailments in this world that we might all be subjected to. However, sometimes a treatment from your doctor isn’t the best way forward. Diseases and conditions are split into mainly 2 categories: communicable and non-communicable. A communicable disease is one which can be spread to another person through contact, for example, HIV/AIDS, polio, Tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and influenza. On the other hand, a non-communicable disease (NCD) is one which cannot be passed on from one person to another. It is non-infectious.  Currently, around the world today, NCDs are by far the leading cause of death in the world as roughly 63% of annual deaths are caused by them [1].

NCDs are split up into 4 categories: cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks or strokes), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease) and diabetes [1]. If we think about it, while these conditions are very different, they still have one thing in common: for most people, these problems could be solved with simple lifestyle changes, which is where public health plays a role.

Public health is the area in medicine which focuses on public health in terms of maintaining hygiene, studying epidemiology and disease prevention. It considers a population rather than a single patient and focuses a lot on holistic care (focusing on the whole spectrum of well-being rather than just the condition that might be affecting someone) [2]

Public health aims to influence larger populations into living a healthier lifestyle, and I believe that the best way to summarise it is ‘prevention is better than cure’. When trying to raise awareness about the conditions, public health campaigns are very effective to emphasise the ‘prevention’. Some examples of public health campaigns include:

  • Stoptober: this is a public health campaign which aims to encourage smokers to make an attempt to quit smoking [3]. If we refer to the 4 main types of NCDs, this would improve the situation of almost all of them! You would be less likely to develop a cardiovascular disease because smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up in fatty material which narrows the artery: this could lead to angina, a heart attack or stroke [4]. You would be less likely to develop cancers such as lung cancer or mouth cancer. You would be less likely to develop COPD as smoking damages the lining of your lungs [5]. Lastly, you would be 30-40% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. [6]
  • Change 4 Life: this is a campaign which aims to tackle obesity and encourages families to ‘eat well, move more, live longer’. [7] Today, we have an obesity crisis, especially with children. In England during 2016/17, 1 in 5 children in year 6 and 1 in 10 children in reception were classified as obese. [8] This has been linked to the fact that now, nearly 7,000 young children and young adults have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is almost 10 times the previously reported amount. [9] Having this campaign would significantly reduce someone’s risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. People who exercise regularly (‘move more’) have a significantly lower risk of having a heart attack, and the most physical people have a disease rate 50% lower than those who live a sedentary lifestyle. [10] Furthermore, having a healthy diet (‘eat well’) means that someone is more likely to have better control over their weight, thus reducing the chances of being negatively affected by the knock-on effects of being overweight.

There are many other things which aim to prevent conditions before cure is needed. For example, recently, the Mayor of London has called to ban fast food advertisements off the tube. Also, the labels of ‘smoking kills’ on cigarette packets are also put there with the aim to put people off an unhealthy lifestyle and push them towards a healthier standard of living.

It is up to us now to decide how effective we want to make public health

By Muskaan Jonathan

  1. http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/noncommunicable_diseases/en/
  2. http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Health-systems/public-health-services
  3. https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/6-stoptober
  4. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/smoking
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000696.htm
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/diabetes.html
  7. https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/17-change4life
  8. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-2018
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46290849
  10. https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/exercise#2

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