WHO defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Although, we have a long way to go before we as a society can live the kind of healthy lifestyle that this definition states, as we still haven’t been able to reach the first step which is the absence of disease and infirmity. Covid-19 has shook the entire planet and has created an atmosphere of fear and restriction. The virus has affected both our physical and mental health.
This pandemic emphasised on the existence of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that were taken for granted earlier, even though in India, every year around 15 million people lose their life because of diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Research has found that the symptoms of Covid-19 are much more dramatic in the population living with NCDs and hence in the past few months we have seen a lot of fatalities added to the current statistics. We have realised that people with NCDs are at a greater risk for not only contracting the corona virus but also succumbing to it.
In a panic-stricken environment like this, more and more people are realising the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. We at Nada foundation are trying to reduce the panic around the current discourse by simultaneously trying to promote the idea of living a healthy and active lifestyle. We believe that the youth can play a great role in keeping this trend going. Youth represents a sense of passion and divergent ideas rooted to creative thinking. It is the youth that can carry our message and mission forward.
We also realise that most of the people who lose their lives because of NCDs are in their middle or late adulthood, but the habits that lead to this condition are developed earlier in life. Four risk factors for NCDs have been recognized by several researchers, namely Tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
It is observed that drug and substance abuse is most common among adolescents and young adults. The substance they use in their youth can have long term effects on their bodies. One of the major reasons for substance abuse has been found to be peer pressure. We all have a need to be affiliated to our peers and our social world. We learn from the people around us and adapt their behaviour. With the current media discourses where alcohol, and cigarettes are glorified, more and more adolescents are indulging in these substances. The youth has a very important responsibility in their hands- the responsibility to educate their peers and to set an example for the younger generation. They themselves need to understand how drugs work and how they negatively affect our body. They need to direct their energy at raising awareness and being peer ambassadors to address the issue of addiction head on.
Medical Information collected by google from hospitals like Apollo has revealed that there are more than 10 million cases of childhood obesity in India every year. The credit for this goes to the inactive lifestyle and the dependence on technology. Our younger generations now prefer spending time on their tablets or mobile phones instead of going out and playing outdoor games. This is negatively impacting their growth and is a predictor of various NCDs like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid and high cholesterol. There is a strong need to bring about a change in this sedentary lifestyle. Youth again becomes very important because it is their actions that can motivate the younger people to adapt to a more active lifestyle. We also have various mobile phone apps that act as a reminder to stay active and stay healthy. We can use the very technology that has restricted our movement to motivate us to stay fit. Just a few initiatives and awareness drives can help us reach our goal of making our country a healthy nation.
We live in a capitalistic world where there are many corporates trying to push forward their agenda even at the risk of endorsing a very unhealthy lifestyle. Junk food ads have become so common on billboards, television and even YouTube. These ads display a variety of mouthwatering dishes that are so hard to resist. But do we stop and think. What makes these dishes so desirable and so tasty? What happens to our body when we eat a juicy burger or a perfectly cooked cheesy pizza? The answer lies in biology. When we eat foods rich in sugars and salts, dopamine is released which makes us feel happy. This reinforces our tendency to eat such foods again. Another thing that we need to know is that because of their low nutritional value, they leave our body in need for nutrients and we crave more food.
These advertisements often use children and young adults as actors who serve as social role models for other people their age. They also associate the idea of friendship and belongingness with let’s say a shared pizza experience. All these psychological tricks used in advertisements appeal to our subconscious and make the already tasty food more desirable.
We see that the youth can be very influential. This is the reason why advertising companies employ Youth Icons or celebrities that the youth identify with to endorse their products. The factor of peer pressure is also something that can convince a person to indulge in a substance or it can create a healthy social environment. It is clear that youth involvement can take two very different turns- a positive turn or a negative turn. We at Nada India Foundation train these young adults to be peer mentors and peer educators to create a healthier social environment for them and their peers. We recognize the kind of impact they can have on the society and strive to use their full potential for the benefit of the larger public. We take their creative ideas to bring about a change and channelise them in the form of various different programmes to address the unique needs of different regions.
Youth is our future and they can help us not only eradicate the NCDs but also achieve a state of complete psychological and emotional wellbeing. We as homoserines have the primary need for belongingness and safety- safety from natural or artificial threats- safety from diseases and safety against all sorts of dangers. By acting as health advocates in the society, the youth of our nation can provide this safety. They can form meaningful relationships with their peers and fulfill our need for affiliation and belonging. They can work towards a better future and instill hope in the minds of people. The changes that their actions can bring about will build an optimistic generation that will be psychologically and physiologically healthy and happy.
Cheers to these young ambassadors of health!
Originally published Dec 12, 2020