About the campaign

A guide for health professionals

The WHPA Health Improvement Card is designed to:
1. Educate individuals on how to improve their health through positive behaviour and lifestyle changes.

2. Empower individuals to work with their health professionals to establish personal health goals and to track their progress over time.

For health professionals, this brochure content is designed to provide useful health facts and help you respond to the most frequently encountered questions:

  • What are noncommunicable diseases?
  • What is the WHPA Health Improvement Card?
  • What are the most important lifestyle/behavioural risk factors that can be modified?
  • What are the metabolic/biometric risk factors that should be monitored on a regular basis?
  • How can the WHPA Health Improvement Card help patients and members of the public achieve their health goals?

What are noncommunicable diseases?

Noncommunicable or chronic diseases (NCDs) – mainly cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, some cancers and chronic respiratory diseases - are a global epidemic, causing more deaths and disability than all other diseases combined. Yet the incidence of NCDs could be significantly reduced and prevented through proven and affordable measures.

There are other important NCDs, such as oral diseases, mental disorders and arthritis, that are often neglected but play a significant role in general well-being. For example, strong association has been shown between oral diseases and psychosocial, speech, nutritional and educational outcomes as well as other systemic conditions.

To make a meaningful reduction in all NCDs, it is necessary to take action on the broader factors that influence people's health lifestyles and behaviour: the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age, and the influence of society. To reduce the impact of NCDs, it is important to have a holistic approach that links individual risk factors with social and economic determinants of health.

Key facts:

  • Of the 57 million global deaths in 2008, 36 million, or 63%, were due to NCDs, with nearly 80% of NCD deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
  • In African nations, NCDs are rising rapidly and are projected to exceed communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases as the most common causes of death by 2030.
  • All NCDs can either be prevented or, if identified early, treated and managed in a way that significantly reduces disability, financial and societal costs and prolongs healthy years of life.

Four common, modifiable, lifestyle/behavioural risk factors are largely responsible for the ill health, suffering and premature deaths associated with NCDs: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol.

These are generally associated with four key metabolic/physiological risk factors: raised blood pressure, raised fasting blood glucose, raised LDL cholesterol and overweight/obesity, which increase the risk of mortality.

As part of daily interactions with patients and the general public, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, dentists and physical therapists have numerous opportunities to educate and empower people on how they may maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid risky behaviours.

This includes providing education and information on public health campaigns and services and facilitating access to preventive, curative and rehabilitation services.

What is the WHPA Health Improvement Card?

Most people are exposed to a multiplicity of environmental and social influences, which predispose them to adopt unhealthy lifestyles/ behaviours, leading to poor health and NCDs.

Most people are exposed to a multiplicity of environmental and social influences, which predispose them to adopt unhealthy lifestyles/ behaviours, leading to poor health and NCDs.

The WHPA Health Improvement Card has three main components:

  1. Assessment on four lifestyle/behavioural risk factors.
  2. Assessment on four metabolic/biometric risk factors.
  3. Action plan and goals targeting lifestyle/behavioural and metabolic/biometric risk factors.

The potential consequences (-) and the steps the individual might take (+) to address the respective lifestyle/behavioural and metabolic /biometric risk factors are described clearly.

The use of a "traffic light" colour-coding provides a powerful visual message on what needs to be achieved by the patient or individual as a goal; what needs to be improved as caution; and what is to be avoided as high risk.

How can the WHPA Health Improvement Card help patients achieve their health goals?

The Health Improvement Action plan has been included on the Health Improvement Card for individuals and their health professional to establish mutually agreed goals so as to improve both lifestyle/ behavioural and metabolic/biometric risk factors over time.

My commitment refers to the target that both you, as the health professional, and the patient/individual wish to achieve by setting a specific target date, such as for reducing weight, blood pressure, and/ or tobacco use.

My action refers to a task that the patient or individual has agreed to undertake on his/her own (such as walking to work instead of using public transport or reducing the number of alcoholic drinks per week).

Health professional action is where the nurse, pharmacist, physician, dentist or physical therapist may indicate locally available diagnostic tests or make a referral to a district health centre or other health professional. It is also where the health professional may prescribe specific interventions (such as checking total cholesterol at a local laboratory centre, making a referral to a district hospital or further evaluation checking blood pressure within one month).

Useful health facts
The following information has been obtained from the World Health Organization and may be useful to the health professional when counselling patients and the public.

Many of the most effective interventions should be made at a population level through the implementation and enforcement of relevant health and non-health policies affecting diet, physical activity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. However, it remains critical that a multi-disciplinary and culturally relevant approach is taken by health professionals in order to effectively empower all individuals to take responsibility for their own health.

What are the most important lifestyle/behavioural risk factors that can be modified?

The following is the matrix for the four main lifestyle/behavioural risk factors with recommendations for appropriate actions to achieve ideal health goals.

What do I need to do as a health professional?

  • Mark a tick in the coloured box on each row, indicating the person's current risk level.
  • Highlight both positive and negative aspects of changing lifestyles and behaviours with the patient or member of the public in order to improve health and prevent NCDs
  • Talk to the person about possible approaches to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Support the person in developing a plan to help them track progress. O nce a person is aware of the dangers and wants to change, many discover that willpower alone is not enough: they need a plan and the help and support of others.
  • Provide copies of the User Guide for Patients and Public on the WHPA Health Improvement Card, which provides basic information and simple suggestions on what can be done to encourage positive healthy lifestlye/behaviour change
  • Use the WHPA Health Improvement Card as an educational tool and as a conversation starter to remind people that, by following simple recommendations, health and well-being can be enhanced and many chronic diseases and losses of function can be prevented.
  • Discuss with the person about participating in relevant national NCD campaigns or screening programmes targeting these risk factors.

The ultimate goal is for the person to achieve four " greens " for lifestyle/behaviour risk factors. Depending on the current levels of risk, it may be necessary to establish step-wise milestones as part of the Health Improvement Action plan that can be self-monitored at home, or tracked for progress and monitored by the health professional.

About the campaign

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) continue to be a major concern to the WHPA, as they present a significant threat to human health and development. In 2011 WHPA, through its NCD campaign, produced the WHPA NCD toolkit and Health Improvement Card (HIC), aimed at empowering individuals, supported by their health professionals, to make lifestyle changes to reduce their NCD risk.

NCD campaign 2nd phase action plan 2012

The overall aims of Phase II are to increase visibility of the WHPA NCD campaign at multiple levels though the respective WHPA member associations and to strengthen the evidence base on the use of the toolkit and HIC.

WHPA NCD campaign 2nd phase in 2012 will have three components:

  • In-country pilot and evaluation the Health Improvement Card and health literacy toolkit
  • Delphi study
  • External stakeholder engagement and communications