“We didn’t have any idea about a healthy lifestyle. Life was just normal, you do what everyone else does. Eat, smoke, don’t exercise and not because you don’t know it’s bad. We just didn’t think about it. We lived carelessly.” Ali, an Iraqi refugee living in Jordan described how he and his family lived before his whole family participated in the International Medical Corps Healthy Lifestyles Campaign.
Many countries in Africa, Asia and in particular the Middle-East are facing a potential health crisis in the years ahead, as the spiralling number of people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, hyper-tension and heart disease threaten to overwhelm developing health systems. In countries such as Jordan, where type 2 diabetes rates are well above 10% of the adult population, each diagnosis of a chronic illness represents both a personal tragedy and a disproportionate burden on under-developed and under-funded health services.
International Medical Corps launched the Jordan Healthy Lifestyles Campaign in 2010, to increase awareness amongst Iraqi refugee and Jordanian communities of the benefits of healthy diets and exercise. The campaign also directly targeted families at risk of multi-generational ill health to bring about sustainable changes in behaviour that will reduce their chances of developing chronic diseases.
Families with one member already diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure were invited on weekend camps to learn and experience healthy lifestyles, promoting improved diets through cookery lessons, joint exercise programmes, supporting smoking cessation and helping all family members understand the risks of chronic diseases.
International Medical Corps have been closely monitoring the impact of this programme and the results have been impressive.
• 92% of campaign participants now follow a healthy diet in order to maintain their weight.
• The number of participants that regularly exercise has increased from 52% to 93%.
• There has been a significant reduction in the amount of high cholesterol cooking oil, fats and salt that families now use in their cooking.
• 59% of participants regularly visit their doctor for health check-ups which greatly increases the chance of identifying the onset of chronic diseases before they become serious.
“Pulling us out of our regular routine gave us a chance to stop and see our life clearly and think about the short and long term consequences of our actions…that’s what affected me the most.” Commented, Enam, a mother of three that participated in the Healthy Lifestyle campaign.
The campaign was designed by International Corps, using its 25 years of experience working in the Middle East, to maximise the likelihood of long term success. By supporting whole families the campaign develops a culturally appropriate and enabling environment for people to make changes in their behaviour that will actually last. The lifestyle changes are designed to be accessible, affordable and to empower individuals to take responsibility for their own health.