Sunday, October 23, 2011

Health Promotion :: The Power of Information

When I was abroad, I talked to several friends that I know how did they get source of information about sexual reproductive health.

It was quite common in Europe, that young people know about their sexual and reproductive rights since very early age. Either they get the source information from school or mass media.

I asked a friend of mine, she's Indonesians but has been living in one of the state in Europe for years. She said that she never heard anything before this kinda information when she stayed in Indonesia. Then when she lived abroad, it's clearly such information were commonly spread in public.

Also information about HIV.
HIV in Indonesia is actually not involving a big number.
In general population the prevalence (only) 0.2 % but among at risk population it ranges from less than 5% (among sex workers) to more than 50% (among people who inject drugs).

While it's pretty common in developed countries, where they put every one (especially young people, who presumably sexually active groups) at risk - public health professionals put the message that 'preventive is important'.
Its implication: (Hopefully) Every young people know that they should use condom with a new sexual partner (to protect from STI) or use another form of contraceptive, if they long term partner (as birth control).

These days, information plays a major role in our life.
And it's really fast in our globalization era. Just hours ago Simoncelli had an accident in Sepang, Malaysia and it was spreading whole around the globes in one click away (if you have internet connection).
We all connected through invisible bonding, thanks to internet and mass media.

And we all may received also wrong or invalid information from media.

That's why leaders (community leaders, religious leaders) used to be and still nowadays, play essential role-- because they may be the source of information, like it or not.
Especially for uneducated people, when they can't be critical (for they concern about only their primary needs).

Unfortunately we can see in our mass media (yes I am talking about Indonesian TV channels) we have limited room for public health messages that can educated people.

I didn't watch TV (in Indonesia) that much because sometimes it could make me sick.
But I also noticed some channels consistently put nice public messages to inform viewers.

I know that every one has their own agenda, whether it's profit (and I believe cheesy movie/ infotainment could bring a lot of profit) or better motives.

Just few weeks ago I came back from Europe, then I started to notice few commercials break in TV. There's this nice public commercial talked about food substitute for rice (because in Indonesia we have so many food staples beside rice, yet they less popular).

I wish for more public health message like this. If I have people who work in media, I would like to contribute my idea to develop public health message.

We are in great need of this message e.g. how to overcome traffic jam (driving behavior), also safety in the street (also for pedestrians), or talking about healthy eating habit.

And it should be regulated in the Ministerial level!

I think for every junk food advertisement (McDonalds, KFC, etc) should be certain percentage aside for health eating habit advertisement !

It's a pity, too many young people with unhealthy eating habit were considered as 'normal' because it represent the sign of 'success' or 'wealthy'.

Then again, smoking prohibition in public space.

Ah yeah, I should have mentioned first, that tobaccos are a big deal in Indonesia.
And it's so cheap ... even kids underage could afford it.

Compare with Europe, for example, you only could buy cigarettes if you're over 18 years old.
I've noticed in some countries e.g. French, Italy, Spain I saw people from younger age also smoke cigarettes. But they have concern that if they smoke, that doesn't mean other people have to smoke too (at least better than here).

And because it's so cheap (cigarettes in Europe also very expensive because they put higher taxes) there are so many poor people that could not afford buy food, they will buy cigarette instead. That's tragic !

I think only rich people that should buy cigarettes, because when they got sick (due to respiratory problems) at least they could afford their medical care.

Maybe it sounds too cynical. But to be very practical, I would put higher tax on cigarettes -- then relocate the budget for health care --
And this works to stop people from smoking too, I believe.
I know many Indonesian friends who stop smoking when they lived in Europe for some while (because it's too expensive to buy cigarettes there).

We've seen so many innovative and impressive advertisement from this tobacco companies in Indonesia. We should also asked them to be balance by provide the information of how harmful cigarettes could be for our health.
Then again, it will be conflict of interest for them!

So, who should provide such information then?
I would say, us, community, public health professional, clinicians, if not government in general (only if they interest in the health state of their citizens).

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