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Why you need to raise awareness of health issues and take the next step

health issueshealth issues
health issueshealth issues

Why you need to raise awareness of health issues and take the next step

We all know something about certain diseases. Like how bad they are, when there’s a breakout or what it means when a friend or family member gets sick. But that’s mostly all we know – the face value, doom and gloom of it all.

Do we bother to know things about the organisations that are out there and who are dedicated to helping those who are sick? Or that, thanks to medical advancements, there are new treatment programs on trial? Or how the rising percentage of infection in our country has slowed down?

Raising awareness of health issues is important because many of our societies are directly affected by it, and yet hugely misinformed. Here we will be using HIV as an example for an awareness campaign.

 

The importance of raising awareness

Public awareness is important for many obvious reasons. But when it comes to health issues, it’s a necessity. Not being aware of the ways one can contract and spread HIV is extremely problematic in a society where HIV is a serious problem.

Without the awareness of this illness, people will continue to go about as they please, unknowingly contracting or infecting other people. If you look at the statistics, in South Africa, there are approximately 7.1 million people living with HIV and only 86% are aware of their HIV status.  

It’s important to raise awareness, otherwise you are faced with issues such as:

  • A cycle of harm, as a result of being unaware, that is created and never-ending in the suffering society.
  • People being misinformed about the severity of contracting the virus or prevention methods regarding the health issue and who will either drastically underreact or overreact.
  • Victims feeling isolated and alone when, in fact, they aren’t alone and there are organisations out there who are ready to help.
  • There being no sense of hope delivered to victims regarding treatment options.

 

You need to raise it right

The problem with some awareness campaigns is that they either dramatise the issue too much or hopelessly too little.

By making it seem like once you know you’re HIV positive, you’re going to die on the spot unless you do this, that and the other thing, you’re leaving the infected person in a state of shock, unable to read further about treatment options.

On the other hand, if you don’t highlight the reality of HIV enough, people who are HIV positive or live a lifestyle that may lead them to contract HIV, won’t think twice about changing their behaviour or seeking help.

If you’re going to raise awareness on something, raise it right. With all the resources and platforms available to you, it’s easier than ever to spread the word, enlighten a society and encourage them to adopt safe practices. As long as you know your audience and translate the information in a way that they will be able to understand, through a medium that will deliver the message appropriately.

Inform them of every aspect of the disease and how the country is dealing with it. For example, were you aware that South Africa is in the process of running five new HIV trials, that started in 2017, as a means to prevent the likelihood of contracting HIV?

Your brochures, lectures and awareness campaigns need to be inclusive of all the information available on the topic. The more informed a person is, the more capable they are to process that information and make the necessary lifestyle changes.

 

There needs to be a next step

But, even so, it’s about more than simply getting it out there and having some people talk about it. Liz Feld, president of the Autism Speaks organisation, talks about the importance of the next step and says, “You’ve got to follow it up with something else. What comes with raising awareness is a responsibility to do something about what you’re aware of.”

Raising awareness requires a follow-up call to action towards a predefined change that a society needs. And a great way to do more than grab people’s attention is to share real-life testimonials. Referring back to our HIV example, if you were to find someone currently living with HIV willing to share their story about how life is with HIV – the good and the bad – people will be more inclined to want to help and do something about it.

Others infected with HIV might find hope to keep fighting or the necessary inspiration to take it more seriously and change their risky behaviour around people who aren’t infected. And while you can’t always be sure how people are going to react to a campaign, we all still have the responsibility to try.

 

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