This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the theme of World Health Day to be “Our planet, our health,” with the focus on how our polluted planet is increasing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, asthma and heart disease.
It is estimated that over 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to environmental causes. While 90% of people breathe polluted air, 77% of all deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries due to lack of access to affordable healthcare, nutrition and preventative education. COVID-19 has shown us the inequalities that exist in global health and has highlighted the urgency of establishing strong and accessible healthcare infrastructure in the developing world.
Pollution is even worse in cities, and as the world rapidly urbanizes, more and more people are at risk of NCDs, especially due to the lifestyle factors that come with living in cities, including less physical activity and unhealthier eating habits. This, coupled with lack of access to quality healthcare, makes the NCD situation especially urgent.
Since 2019, HPIC has been working in collaboration with local partners and government authorities to reduce mortality, morbidity and disability in patients with non-communicable diseases in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya through implementing education and public awareness activities, as well as improving access to healthcare services.
As part of the NCD program, school health clubs have been established in 10 schools in Kibera. Teachers have been trained to speak to their students about various topics including NCD prevention and management, mental health and substance abuse, healthy lifestyle habits, nutrition and even how to start a kitchen garden to grow healthy food sustainably.
Health education starts with youth so that healthy habits can be developed early, and the next generation is equipped to deal with the health risks that arise from current environmental challenges, and perhaps even inspired to take better care of our planet in the process.
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