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"Don't touch that dial": rethinking media messaging in light of non-communicable diseases

Overview 

It is clear that both social & mass media have greater use for entertaining and educating people. Many of us use media for promoting physical activity to the some extent. However, constant use of technology can also discourage peoples to stay active. Access to mass and social medias has increased from momentary access to 24 hours service with movies and social media sites where people browse from the comfort of their couches and chairs and beds.

Social media addiction is also rising sharply. In the Ethiopian context, majority of people spend time  on social media for a minimum of an estimated 6 hours a day. Similarly, they can spend time on mass media for at least 4 hours a day. In total, one person can spend on at least 10 hours a day on the media, time that may be spent sedentarily. Evidence shows that being inactive and sitting for long time can increase peoples risk for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Thus, sitting more than two hours at a time in a day is harmful to our health.

I am not claiming that media is not important but, organizations need to be aware and take care of the impact of their media on their customers. Yet there is no media which has an intervention to safeguard the health of their customers or promote activity.

Mass Media Vs Physical Activity

The role of mass media cannot be minimized in raising public awareness about physical activity. Now, they are transmitting rises in sedentary behavior across the globe. This impact will not be significant. Evidence reveals that inactivity is ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in the world. Hence, discouraging people to move means that inactivity is pushing nations to death. Majority of journalists usewords that discourage physical activity. It is common for journalists to say, ‘’ don’t go anywhere until we come back again after this adverts”. As such discouraging is common in many low-middle income countries where a high burden of NCDs is recorded. Words like ‘don’t move’, stay there’, ‘keep watching’, ‘stay focused’, etc are become familiar while watching Mass Medias. Such discouraging words must be omitted in the medias. Majority of media is transmitting some exercise related programs that only focus on physical fitness which is completely different from physical activity. As a result, many peoples have no interest to be physically fit especially the women, the vulnerable and elders. Indirectly, mass media makes people to hate physical activity. Therefore, people are not physically active as a result of misunderstanding obtained from mass media on a daily basis. This is a serious issue that needs immediate reversal by media itself.

Social Media Vs Physical Activity

Social media is a great place to share ideas freely and spread it quickly to wider nations. It is cost effective to distribute your ideas, infographics, research findings, etc. Many of us promoted physical activity on social media in the last few years. Still many experts are using it to raise public awareness about physical activity.

However, many people are addicted to social media by spending long time on sitting and viewing screen based technologies. This can put customers at risk for premature deaths from NCDs. At certain years, media will have no more customers if not resolved early. Threatening the health of somebody is violating human rights. So, the owners of social media must fix this issue. In addition, all users have to re-think the impact of medias on their health.

Suggestions

All media agents should design effective interventions for their customers to limit sitting time. New approaches are required to limit sedentary behavior or sitting time. For instance, encouraging people to stand and move around during mass media adverts can break sedentary time. For social media, message alerts are important in every two hours while using social media continuously. Such interventions are crucial to encourage people to move and limit sitting time. Likewise, media-friendly other approaches have to adapt to encourage peoples to move more and sit less.

Summary 

Being inactive has a greater health and economic impact. It is clear that moving more and sitting less can tackle NCDs and optimize better health. However, social and mass media are discouraging people to do so. This hidden effect has to be recognized and efforts must be made to mitigate necessary interventions to safeguard the health of their customers. Harming the health of people violates their human rights and that is unacceptable. This is the early warning sign and urgent interventions are expected from all social and mass media agents.

Important links 

1) Physical activity fact sheet. Available here http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs385/en/

2) Investments that Work for Physical Activity. Available here www.globalpa.org.uk/investmentsthatwork

3) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity. Available here www.who.int/ncds/governance/physical_activity_plan/en/

About author

Chalchisa Abdeta is certified with different global level trainings on physical activity to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs). He obtained Master of Public Health from Haramaya University on July 2016 and Bachelor of Science degree in Physiotherapy from University of Gondar on July 2009. He has practiced for 8 years as physiotherapist in both public and private hospitals in the eastern Ethiopia. Currently, he is working volunteer as country contact for Ethiopia at the Global Observatory for Physical Activity and Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance since 2016. Besides, he is working with Engage Africa Foundation as blogger and policy researcher. He found online network of physical activity advocate (Ethiopian Physical Activity Network) that aimed to increase awareness of physical activity in Ethiopia and beyond. He is passionate physical activity advocate on social media since 2015. You can follow him on Twitter @caaliphysio or @EthioPAnetwork

 

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