Boost for health awareness in China
Countdown to Beijing 2008: today on the Olympic Games and health education:
This summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing are providing an ideal opportunity to boost health awareness across China, both in cities and in rural areas. The Chinese authorities have come together with international bodies including the World Health Organisation (WHO), local groups and multinational corporations to launch a range of programmes aimed at improving the well-being of the nation’s 1.3 billion population. The initiatives are using this summer’s Games as a catalyst to capture the public’s imagination.
Anti-smoking efforts gathering pace
One area being targeted is smoking. The world’s largest tobacco producer and consumer, China has over 350 million smokers and nearly one million deaths annually from smoking-related diseases, according to its Ministry of Health. Another 100,000 die from the effects of passive smoking. Under Beijing’s campaign for a smoke-free Games, catering facilities, Olympic venues, city departments, hotels and hospitals have all banned smoking. Several hospitals have launched outpatient services including counselling and medication to help smokers quit.
Using Olympic excitement to highlight key health messages
Dr Hans Troedsson, the WHO China representative, applauded Beijing’s smoke-free regulations, which present “a golden opportunity to expand education around the risks of tobacco”. “Beijing’s leadership on this front will hopefully spark similar regulations in other cities,” he said. The goal for the “3 Fives” campaign is for it to spread to the rest of the country, not just Beijing. “This is another chance to ride the excitement around the Olympics to raise awareness of simple but key health messages,” added Dr Troedsson.
Private sector playing its part
Companies have also taken up the health education baton. In 2006, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson launched a nationwide Olympic-themed campaign with the Red Cross Society of China and over 100 hospitals, encouraging the public to donate stem cells to help leukaemia patients combat the disease. Its Chinese subsidiary, Xian-Janssen, undertook a roadshow called “Health for Winning Olympics” with the Chinese Medical Association to increase health awareness and promote healthier lifestyles. It visited 48 cities in 12 provinces.
Health kits and advice on healthier diets
Beijing’s Municipal Health Bureau has sent out health advice kits to five million households to counter rising mortality rates and illnesses such as coronary heart disease, strokes and diabetes in its “Healthy Olympics, Healthy Beijing” programme. Meanwhile, the WHO has partnered the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), China’s Ministry of Health and Beijing’s Food Safety Administration to launch a “3 Fives” health promotion campaign, initially in Beijing, to highlight the benefits of food safety, healthy diets and physical activity.