At the Second Pan American Conference on Obesity (PACO II), held June 11-16 in Aruba, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) presented eHealth as an essential component in the fight against noncommunicable diseases, in particular childhood obesity.
PACO II consisted of a series of workshops that lead to the two-day plenary sessions where experts and officials from local, national, and international institutions and governments analyzed the experiences and the lessons learned about the epidemic. In the plenary sessions experts also presented regional recommendations derived from the workshops.
The workshop, titled “The Role of eHealth in the prevention of childhood obesity”, was requested by the Ministry of Health of Aruba and resulted in the following overarching recommendation: to adopt the framework of the eHealth Strategy and Plan of Action for the Americas to developments in eHealth and obesity.
During the eHealth workshop, participants learned about the importance of having a strategy and plan of action that integrates eHealth into public health efforts. They also shared experiences and discussed eHealth initiatives that fight childhood obesity, such as the “Get the Message” campaign, PAHO/WHO’s first mobile app, and the use of social networks.
The “Get the Message” campaign was a mobile phone text message campaign started by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition to raise awareness about NCDs and support political leaders attending the UN High-level Meeting. Private sector partners included mobile phone companies Digicel and Lime, which allowed people to send the text-messages for free. The integrated communications campaign included advocacy efforts through traditional media as well as social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
PAHO/WHO’s first mobile app aims to improve access to data from the Global School-based Student Health Survey. Through an iPhone or iPad, the app allows people to quickly generate and graph data from the survey, for example, on the consumption of fruits and vegetables in schools in Aruba, or anywhere else in the Americas.
Participants also learned about the use of social networks in the prevention of childhood obesity. They looked at the importance of engaging and communicating with children and other key publics through these new technologies. Presenters also showcased the opportunity to create networks of experts, community leaders, organizations, and many other social actors, in the virtual realm.
The Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth for the Americas Region was presented during the plenary session of PACO II, along with other recommendations from the eHealth workshop that included:
Dr. James Hospedales, Senior Advisor on Prevention & Control of Chronic Diseases, PAHO/WHO, presenting the "Get the Message" Campaign.
Dr. Alfonso Contreras, Advisor on Health Education and Behavioral Change, PAHO/WHO, presenting the mobile app.
David Novillo, Advisor on Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning, PAHO/WHO, presenting the eHealth Strategy.
Romina Cialdella, Communication Specialist, PAHO/WHO, presenting the workshop conclusions.