The Arise Children Initiative empowers children as change agents for healthier lifestyles for themselves and the adults around them. Particular emphasis is placed on reducing the risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and recognises that children on the path to adulthood can positively impact their own health outcomes as well as influence that of those around them.
NCDs are already responsible for 38 million deaths worldwide with 80% occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). By 2030, Africa will see a doubling in the numbers of NCD sufferers with predictable effects on productivity and wellbeing of families, communities and nations. Lifestyle activities begun in adolescence are known risk factors for NCDs and account for two-thirds of premature deaths in LMICs. Changes in diet, exercise, avoiding smoking and heavy drinking, for example, have been proven to directly reduce the chances of getting NCDs. Minimising the chances of choices early in life that lead to developing NCDs later in life is key to turning the tide on NCDs.
What are NCDs?
NCDs are a group of diseases that tend to start slow, get progressively worse and can last a lifetime especially if not identified early and treated appropriately. Many factors interact with each other and affect the body to increase the risk of developing NCDs. These risk factors include those that cannot be altered like family history of developing NCDs, race, gender, age and those that can be modified such as physical inactivity, obesity, unhealthy diets, harmful alcohol use and exposure to tobacco. The four commonest NCDs globally are
- cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and stroke),
- respiratory or lung-related diseases and
A Proven Theory of Change
Majority of health interventions target adults and parents as sole decision makers. However, improved health knowledge, self-care and behaviour change strategies are starting to promote the concept that health literacy skills should begin in childhood. There is a growing body of evidence that there is merit in targeted health education for children with positive results on knowledge and more importantly on behaviour change. For instance, studies have demonstrated that improved health knowledge in children has positively influenced dietary choices in families as well as malaria outcomes. Embracing a holistic, life course approach to promoting wellbeing is premised on the potential role children can play in making healthy and smart choices whilst simultaneously influencing their parents, guardians, significant adults and their communities.
The Arise Children Initiative will be collaborating with implementation partners to design and roll out child-focused health messaging in communities starting in Nigeria and then across Africa. Through campaigns that will combine digital, multimedia and interactive approaches; activities will focus on raising the awareness of children about NCDs and how to prevent them. Simple and effective messages can be shared and spread by the children themselves supported by their teachers, parents, and children’s organisations.
Over the next five years, Arise Children Initiative will develop health literacy content around NCDs for a lifetime of impact and sustainability in reversing current trends in NCD health outcomes.