The most significant learning I have gained?
Healthy lifestyle is not just about making good or smart choices in order to be physically and emotionally healthy and be spared from the probability of diseases, but it is also about being informed on safety issues, being empowered with knowledge, skills, positive attitude and correct perception about risks/risky behaviors and with the ability to make smart safety-related decisions, and being able to choose to employ them in the imminence or face of disaster/emergency.
In relation to this, I realized that emergency (i.e. accident) and disaster risk management are indeed critically needed to be addressed as part of health education campaigns and programs, because in the first place what healthy lifestyle advances is the over-all well being of people, which means for them to be not just healthy physically and emotionally, and be free from any disease but also to be healthy, safe and resilient in the face of emergency/disaster. Its obvious importance comes from the fact that that disasters pose a threat to people’s lives and their impacts may account to injuries, diseases, disabilities, or even mental disorder as in the case of many Yolanda victims. Also, inevitable they are as the risks associated with them, people need to know what to do or how to prepare and respond to emergencies/disasters as much as they need to have right perception for them to make smart safety-related decisions. All of these of course can only be achieved through education/information campaigns and risk and emergency management programs for communities and households at risk. But this is not easy.
Promoting healthy behaviors through education/information campaigns to reduce risks and to help people prepare for, cope with, respond to and recover, may seem simple but other factors such as wrong perception about risky behaviors could complicate or worsen the effects of disaster/s, and could cost lives that in the end, it does not matter who are healthy and who are not. This is the case in typhoon Yolanda. The wrong attitude and perception of many people; either refused to heed the warning in order to protect their property or thought that their houses were safe and believed that they “know their sea better than anyone else”, or even held on to their belief that a catastrophe was not imminent as the “stars were out the previous night”, as it turned out cost them the lives of their loved ones. Also, in most places, though warning was communicated, but lack of knowledge or understanding on what storm surge means, contributed to deaths in the thousands.
Undeniably, knowledge, skills, positive attitude, right perception about risks/risky behaviors and ability to make and choose smart safety-related decisions in the imminence or face of disaster/emergency should be part of healthy lifestyle promotion. In the first place, as explained in the World Health Organization’s fact sheets, “risks can be understood in terms of hazards and people’s vulnerability to that hazard”. People’s vulnerability then to emergencies can be reduced through effective education/information campaigns, because apart from the empowerment on knowledge, skills, positive attitude, and correct perception about risks /risky behaviors and on ability to make smart safety-related decisions, the more they would be unable to prepare for, “cope with, respond to and recover from the effects of a hazard, which then would make the hazard all the more an emergency one.
World Health Organization (2013). Emergency management for health: overview. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/preparedness/risk_management_overview_17may2013.pdf
Lagmay, A. (2014, June 2). Devastating storm surges of typhoon yolanda. Project Noah. Retrieved from http://blog.noah.dost.gov.ph/2014/06/02/devastating-storm-surges-of-typhoon-yolanda/