Chécate, Mídete, Múevete

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 15:16

It is a misconception that health services are financial black holes. In fact, health is profitable. For every dollar invested in Mexican healthcare, the country gets back 13 in boosted productivity according to a report produced by Legal Momentum’s Family Initiative and the MIT Workplace Center. Neglecting the issue is the real cause of the expense. Obesity has overtaken alcoholism, hypertension and smoking as the primary cause of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. These three chronic illnesses account for more deaths than any other cause and there is an additional correlation between obesity and liver, colon, and ovarian cancers. Finally, in 90% of cases of Mexico’s most prevalent chronic disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity has been found to be the cause in a report by the WHO.

The Ministry of Health has begun to recognize the cost, both human and financial, of leaving obesity unaddressed, accepting figures issued by the WHO and the country’s own statistical body, INEGI. The Chécate, Mídete, Muévete, program is an integrated awareness-building program forming part of the National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity, and Diabetes. It belongs to the first objective of the Sectorial Program for Health, which focuses on consolidating health protection and promotion and disease prevention actions.

The media presence of the campaign is ubiquitous, with TV and radio channels featuring segments during most advertising breaks, and its jingle audible on public transport. The project is threefold, with one aspect for each of the imperatives that give the program its name. The multi-platform awareness campaign is intended to support a program on nutrition and physical activity aimed at the parents of young children. Guiding the mission is the aim of eliminating processed food from kitchens, boosting the consumption of fruit and vegetables, and replacing high-sugar drinks with water.

The educational materials being issued are comprehensive, including five manuals, three guides, and a number of posters. New promotional materials feature singlesentence mottos, bright colors, and simple illustrations. In addition, a number of mobile health-promotion units are currently touring two of the country’s least urbanized, most remote states, Colima and Hidalgo. A closer look at the elements of the Chécate, Mídete, Muévete allows us to explain why.

Chécate – check yourself – encourages preventive checkup visits to the doctor, with a view to changing the culture around medical treatment. Many serious diseases such as breast cancer and diabetes are only reported once they have developed complications serious enough to warrant an emergency trip to health professionals. Regular checkups are not yet a part of Mexican culture but the program is seeking to promote a change of attitudes towards medical treatment. This particular change is crucial, according to Gisela Ayala Téllez, Executive Director of the Mexican Federation of Diabetes, who attributes the gravity of Mexico’s diabetes issue to failures in prevention. “Diabetes does not cause pain until the condition is advanced,” she explains. “In a culture that does not encourage check-ups unless there are symptoms, this is a major problem for patients who do not notice or present problems.”

The rest of the Chécate, Mídete, Muévete program includes an educational aspect, with Mídete – ’measure yourself’ – teaching the public how to check for lumps, how to monitor cholesterol levels, and healthy weight-to-height ratios. Téllez is clear on the importance of this aspect of the plan. “People need to know what to look for,” she says. “Measuring what they eat and knowing the importance of exercise can prevent a great many issues.”

Finally, Muévete – ‘move yourself’ – highlights the importance of a small amount of daily exercise in bringing about positive lifestyle change. This comes in conjunction with laws requiring children to perform two hours’ exercise per week. According to official information on the achievements of the Chécate, Mídete, Muévete program released by the Ministry of Health, 61% of the target audience decided to make lifestyle changes including eating habits and physical activity as a result of this campaign. In addition, it had efficacy levels of 85% in terms of the number of people who remember the campaign’s message after some time. In terms of impact on incidence of related diseases, 378,950 people were diagnosed with diabetes and 476,411 new cases of hypertension were detected in 2014, which were 4.5% and 4.9% lower than the figures reported in 2013, respectively.

Other measures taken to tackle the obesity problem in 2014 included 32 strategies launched in each federal state with specific goals and actions aligned to the National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity, and Diabetes. Additionally, the General Hospital of Mexico implemented the Patients’ University program, aimed at educating patients to share information regarding their disease within their community. Finally, to evaluate the results of the National Strategy, the Mexican Observatory of Non-communicable diseases gathers the participation levels of both the public and private sectors and integrates all information for such diseases and their causal factors in the country.