The changing paradigm of health communication

The role of health communication in prevention of chronic diseases cannot be overemphasized. With an informed audience, today health messages have to be carefully modulated so that the right message goes through

Health communication is of relevance in every aspect of today's health environment, be it disease prevention or treatment. A noticeable paradigm shift in health communication has been the impact of digital platforms in health communication.
"Digitalization has opened doors to numerous modes of health communication. Technology and health communication go hand in hand and the use of the digital platform to reach target audiences is crucial in order to increase access to health interventions," says Dr Dechenla Tshering Bhutia, professor & head, department of community medicine, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences.
However, she maintains that with the overflow of information through media platforms, people should be discerning about correct and incorrect health messages. "With an informed audience, today health messages have to be carefully modulated so that the right message goes through," she observes.
Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences offers an MBBS and MD (in community medicine) within which health communication and environment are integral parts.
Health is multidimensional and the health environment is dynamic
Another paradigm shift has been the role of health communication in prevention of chronic diseases. "Especially in today's context with the increasing incidence of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes etc (as a result of sedentary lifestyle) it becomes imperative that the individual takes responsibility for his/her health. This is where health communication steps in as an important intervention effort to change behaviours," informs Dr Bhutia.
From the archives of World Health Day Health Camp....extreme right Dr Dechenla
Image: From the archives of World Health Day Health Camp....extreme right Dr Dechenla
Since the management of chronic disease is a process, health communication addresses behavior change at multiple levels and demands urgent attention in today's changing disease scenario.
So what according to health experts are the various components of the health environment today? "In public health, we believe that the environment comprises of the macro and the micro environment where the macro deals with everything that surrounds the individual be it physical or social. On the other hand the micro environment comprises of the biological and the mental state of the individual," answers Dr Bhutia.
Health indeed is multidimensional and the health environment is dynamic. A primary focus area in today's scenario is the mental health status of individuals, especially given the current backdrop of the pandemic. This is a stressful time for everyone where we are surrounded with fear and anxiety. Poor mental health obviously takes a toll and affects the physical health of the person as well.
"Investing in mental health is the need of the hour and this aspect unfortunately has (till date) been stigmatized and not discussed without prejudice. The younger generations are particularly at risk of developing mental issues while fitting into societal norms, expectations and peer pressure. We need to be unbiased in approaching mental health and be more accommodative while discussing it," elaborates Dr Bhutia.



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