Kelvin Mokaya, NAYA Advocate.
Ensuring that youth receive the correct information about the health impacts of their behaviors is important to help youth make healthy decisions. Many young people today have unprecedented access to information and the capacity to act on that information in shaping their own lives and determining their own health status. For example, the Ministry of Health launched an anti-tobacco mass media campaign in 2014 titled, “Smoking Kills—Quit Now”. It broadcast messages on radio and television about the adverse health effects of smoking tobacco. The Ministry of Health also disseminated informational posters in schools, universities, and other public institutions to create awareness.
Young people can contribute in several ways to prevent NCDs. By using new media, young voices can provide a novel perspective on NCD prevention and control by sharing targeted messages on key risk factors and interventions. Young people can engage with different communities and share information about NCDs.
Schools’ managerial bodies can also play an important role. For example, the school curriculum in Kenya is currently being revised to increase the level of physical activity children gets during school time, but a major challenge has been the tendency of many schools spending the physical education time on other academic subjects.
Now is the time for Nairobi County, under the NCD unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, to implement a full range of prevention strategies, i.e. prioritize NCDs, reduce risk factors, support research and development, monitor trends and determinants of NCDs, strengthen the health system and national capacity, which will build positive health behaviors and reduce NCD risk behaviors among youth. Successfully implementing such strategies require coordination, creative thinking, collaboration across sectors, and involving young people.
Also important is filling critical information gaps by regular NCDs’ data collection efforts, and conducting policy and program evaluations to help identify the most-effective interventions for Kenya. Averting the premature onset of NCDs will enable youth to reach their full potential, increase productivity, decrease future health care costs, and contribute to further economic growth and development.
Youth centers and existing health services targeting youth, such as sexual and reproductive health services and HIV/AIDS services, can also incorporate NCD services, such as counseling and screening for NCD risk behaviors, to reach a wider cross-section of youth with the services necessary to reduce risk behaviors. School-based information programs on the importance of staying away from alcohol and tobacco have also been found successful in some settings.