Women’s role within community engagement and the underlying epidemic
Despite the fact that coronavirus or covid-19 is, as of now, the leading cause of mortality worldwide, the exclusive focus of political, regulatory, health service, and public health agencies on it has concealed another epidemic. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and mental health disorders have caused many times more premature deaths and greater suffering than covid-19, year after year. The pandemic has unquestionably exposed the link between NCDs and covid-19 since hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the most predominant diseases in patients with coronavirus. NCDs are not exclusively caused by personal behaviour choices, therefore, not only good-quality individual medical care is significant and additionally, interventions focusing on the prevention and treatment of these diseases are necessary. NCDs can be barriers to poverty alleviation and sustainable development as 82% of all NCD-related premature deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. Food security and nutrition impacts the incidence of chronic diseases and improvements in both through advances in modern medicine and safety practices can enhance the quality of the years of life gained.
Endeavours to promote health and forestall disease must be directed not to individuals exclusively but in addition to, the environments in which people live. Research on the social-class gradient suggests a significant improvement in the wellbeing of people who are able to control their destinies and having the option to participate in the social factors that impact their lives. Community engagement through community-based support is required to guarantee education, and motivational activities should be implemented locally to enable and embed the necessary changes in lifestyle. As indicated by the World Health. Organization (WHO), community engagement is integral to any public health intervention and it’s even more significant during public health emergencies like the one we are currently facing. Community engagement in the public health field arises from the understanding that everyone has the right to know about their health risks. It very well may be defined as the process in which the community moves towards a better change through empowerment. The principle of its practice is to recognize and respect diversity and ensure that the most vulnerable are reached and engaged. Besides, when the community is engaged in something, they have ownership of it and with an emphasis on collaboration and the promise of influence on decision making, community engagement drives social transformation.
While both men and women can be affected by NCDs, they have different levels of exposure and vulnerability to risk factors. NCDs have been the leading causes of death among women globally for at least the past three decades and cause two in three deaths among women annually, and the burden of mortality and morbidity is expected to increase, especially in low- and middle-income countries. In addition, women are less likely to be diagnosed early with certain NCDs because women often display symptoms differently, and most of the studies on NCD diagnosis have been conducted solely on men which can lead to higher rates of fatality and complications in women. All over the world, studies show that women’s participation in community initiatives can have long-lasting benefits for the entire community. Women who are empowered to take action, whether through programmes led by governments, non-governmental organizations or those driven by the community, frequently have a positive influence on the lives of other people. It’s known that increasing women’s engagement in education and access to assets and resources improves the education and health of their families.
Although regulations, policies, guidelines and price control are necessary elements for nutritional change; education, counselling and other means of support are also required. In spite of the fact that dealing with NCDs may be a daunting prospect, the situation will likely only deteriorate further if we do not take action as a community-ensuring women’s engagement. Community-based programs like the Eat Better South Africa (EBSA) run nutrition and health education targeting South African under-resourced communities. These programs aim to provide accessible tools and knowledge to prevent and treat NCDs in these communities. Women have higher rates of participation in these programs. They learn about the metabolic diseases they’re suffering from and to make sure the whole community moves towards a healthier future. The role of women in community engagement has demonstrated to be essential for EBSA to address the root causes of NCDs. Women have shown to be key assets for community engagement and there is a huge need to better understand their needs and ensure that more studies on women’s health are done to overcome this epidemic.
About the author
Georgina Pujol-Busquets Guillén is a Physiology and Public Health PhD student at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and an Associate Professor at the Open University of Catalonia, Spain. She stared at The Noakes Foundtion as a public health intern in 2017 and came back to write her PhD on our nutrition and health education programs (Eat Better South Africa). Her research is titled “Mixed method evaluation of a nutrition and health education program on components of metabolic health and overall wellbeing on women from under-resourced South African communities.”
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