Creating Shared Priorities for Prevention & Healthcare

Solutions discussed:

Involve community members in coming up with ideas for local interventions, and in carrying out the interventions

Citizens have the best knowledge of their community's specific needs. Listen to this information and use it to direct public health promotion strategies, as a bottom up approach. For example, in Operation Sukuma-Sakhe, each ward in South Africa has a group of caregivers and youth ambassadors that act as a link between people & government. They interview each household in the area to identify their needs and ideas and relay this to the central team. These link workers can also get bursaries to qualify as health and social workers. Communities are encouraged to devise and carry out their own ideas, with help from the public health bodies & government. Feedback is obtained and used to improve programs. Successes of OSS so far include taxation on sugary drinks and training certain community members on health screening.

Presented by: Dr Sandhya Singh, Health ZA

Operation Sukuma Sakhe

Health communication - find common language that can connect public & healthcare professionals

Using too much medical jargon is a barrier to public health programmes. Most people don't know what 'non-communicable disease' means, so when scientists and healthcare professionals talk about it, people may not fully understand its relevance to them. Whereas infectious diseases like HIV and Covid-19 get a lot more attention in the media and in research because the public are more familiar with the jargon, so it seems more important and relevant to them. There is a need for a common language to increase engagement with health promotion programs.

Presented by: Dr Seye Abimbola, BMJ global health Australia

Prioritise and incentivise research into prevention, detection and management of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

NCDs like obesity don't get as much attention globally as communicable diseases like HIV, but their prevalence and impact on morbidity/mortality is increasing. Prevention of NCDs is traditionally harder to research, doesn't get clear results, and it is hard to quantify the impact of the money invested into the research. For example, antibiotics either work or they don't, but it is harder to measure if exercise has a statistically significant effect for diabetes, so this kind of research is less likely to be done. Researchers must find ways to overcome these challenges and always relate their findings to how they can be implemented into public health policy.

Presented by: Dr Sandhya Singh, Health ZA

NCD Alliance Website

Every healthcare professional should be equipped to educate patients on modifiable risk factors of disease

Staff such as pharmacists, district nurses, and physiotherapists are an untapped resource - they could use each encounter with patients to promote healthy behaviour. This acts as primary prevention of disease and can reduce the burden on GPs. For example, Lloyds community pharmacists can provide advice on issues such as weight loss, smoking, poor diets, and hypertension. They see patients more often than GPs so can provide continuity of care.

Presented by: Victoria Steele, Lloyds Pharmacy

Lloyds Pharmacy Weight Loss Service

Policies should be in place to reduce the promotion of unhealthy behaviours, including the consumption of fast food and sugary drinks

The industries that are profiting from activities that make the population unhealthy must be restricted. If eating unhealthy fast-food is cheaper and more accessible, no public health strategy of telling people to eat healthily will work. This especially impacts people of lower socio-economic demographics. For example, the tax on sugary drinks in South Africa has reduced sugar consumption since 2018.

Presented by: Dr Sandhya Singh, Health ZA

Vaccination programmes should include targeting of people living with NCDs and co-morbidities like obesity or cancer

Vaccines are one of the most successful medical interventions. We should consider the impact of non-communicable diseases on people's risk of developing infectious diseases. For example, with Covid-19, certain people who had NCDs were at greater risk of developing serious illnesses. If it is unfeasible to vaccinate most of the population, prioritising people with NCDs can drasticaly reduce deaths. More research should be done into the relationship between NCDs and the effectiveness of vaccination against specific diseases.

Presented by: Professor Adam Cunningham, UK