EnviroMedia Co-founder and President Kevin Tuerff is providing a series of posts from the IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion in Pattaya, Thailand. This is his final report from the five-day conference.
10. Globally, kids prefer green and blue crayons when it comes to drawing their own pictures of health. A study by graduate students on three continents found this color scheme to be thematic in pictures drawn by children in response to the question, “What does health mean to you?” This reinforces the branding principle that color choices can convey strong thoughts, ideas and emotions — and it suggests this principle works no matter how old you are. For EnviroMedia’s logo, we chose blue for health and leadership and green for the environment.
9. Collaboration and partnerships are growing between health promoters and NGOs, doctors, nurses, insurance companies and hospitals. Communication feedback mechanisms included with U.S. health care reforms are growing in other parts of the world. Watch for more innovative collaborations that can help patients get well quicker (and cheaper).
8. More health educators are focusing on mental well-being and self-esteem as an approach to help kids grow up with the confidence to eat healthy, exercise, and refuse alcohol, tobacco and drugs. A study of 10- and 11-year-olds in Sweden found when teachers asked students for their own ideas, they had more success and increased health literacy.
7. Cycling is growing in popularity in many countries, and health promotion experts are trying to find funds to promote the health, environmental and cost benefits for regular bike users. A study of 2,024 people in nine provinces of Thailand ranked messages that would increase daily bicycle use. These messages included (ranked highest to lowest) improved health through physical activity, reduced air pollution, costs savings and convenience.
6. Marketing junk food to kids and “leanwashing” foods as healthy is a growing problem, especially with people spending more time on social media. Folks from Victoria, Australia, were interested in EnviroMedia’s Leanwashing Index. A study by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok found that though there are some standards for advertising to children on TV in Thailand, advertisers are unclear about the rules and there is no enforcement.
5. HIV and AIDS remain a huge global health crisis. The target audiences for health promotion have changed since the 1990s and so have the number of channels to reach these audiences. Dr. Jungling Cho shared his content analysis study of news coverage on HIV/AIDS in China from 2001 to 2010. In recent years, there was a significant drop in the number of articles that placed blame on people with AIDS.
4. The nexus of public health and climate change is growing. Health promotion may be most helpful with new climate adaptation efforts. One concern was the lack of cooperation between emergency planners, environmental regulators, water and electricity utilities, and public health experts.
3. Despite successes in decreasing smoking rates in developed countries, there is concern about a loss of momentum to cut rates to single digits. Since the U.S. tobacco settlements from 1999 to 2002, lawmakers have moved that money from health promotion budgets to projects like roads, jails and schools. Thailand has made significant strides in reducing adult smoking rates to just under 20 percent. But it’s been an ongoing battle to maintain that trend. Since the Thai government implemented a hefty tax increase on cigarette packs, young people in large numbers have moved to purchasing single, hand-rolled cigarettes that are cheaper. A rule change now includes hand-rolled cigarettes in the tobacco tax. Another strategy to help smokers quit is to put alarming photos of the consequences of smoking on cigarette packs, along with a website for online cessation courses. But fresh off a legal victory in the U.S. that quashed the same tactic, the tobacco industry is now in Thailand courts trying to reverse this measure.
2. Health promotion has continually proven to be the best public investment in health when compared to medical and hospitalization costs. For too many years, politicians have responded to public health problems by calling for a research study on a new disease outbreak or public health crisis. Yet when the research comes back with the exact prescription for success, nothing happens to fully implement these programs. Educating policymakers about the return on investment of successful health promotion efforts is critical.
1. Finally, innovative technology, social media and the growth of global Internet access are critical to increasing health promotion and ultimate health outcomes.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first meeting of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) World Conference on Health Promotion. So much work is being done across the globe to address public health problems. Global conferences like this one are important to find synergies and cooperation that can foster a healthier planet.
I’m grateful to Dr. Alfred McAlister and Dr. Maria Fernandez of the University of Texas School of Public Health for introducing me to IUHPE. Learning about Thai culture — its natural beauty, food and people — was an added bonus I won’t forget.