Building Health Literacy for an Aging Population in Thailand
Just as someone who saves small amounts of money consistently from an early age can accumulate tremendous wealth for their retirement, one needs to build good health habits years and even decades in advance to maintain an active lifestyle in their senior years. The small daily choices one makes in terms of saving, exercise, and diet will have a significant impact on one’s wellbeing long term.
While this wisdom may sound simple, many people, whether through a lack of knowledge, time limitations, or countless other reasons, struggle to develop the daily habits that will pay dividends later in life. Even healthcare professionals, like Ms.Pakawan Krongporn, a public health officer at the Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Public Health Office, find it difficult to ingrain good habits into their daily routines.
Pakawan, who is responsible for mental healthcare and alternative medicine in the province, works with at-risk populations, such as drug addicts and children with mental disabilities. While she was busy helping others, her own health sometimes went neglected.
In 2017, however, that changed when Kenan and the Pfizer Foundation began implementing the Pfizer Healthy Aging Society project in Ubon Ratchathani. One of the project’s key activities was building the health literacy of seniors and pre-seniors. Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the needs of seniors and pre-seniors, the project used a holistic approach, involving financial, mental, and physical healthcare, to improve the health literacy and habits of the target populations. The project selected public health officials, like Pakawan, as one of the target populations because of this group’s unique ability to disseminate critical health knowledge throughout society.
Pakawan took the knowledge to heart and immediately began applying what she learned into her own life. For example, she has started making a concerted effort to monitor her weight regularly to ensure that her body mass index (BMI) remains within the healthy range.
The knowledge introduced by the project, critically, didn’t remain locked inside the walls of the Public Health Office. In fact, Kawan and her colleagues have been working hard to share what they learned with the people in the 155 villages that they are responsible for.
“I use all the knowledge that I got from Kenan,” says Pakawan. “We are bringing the knowledge from [Kenan’s] experts to teach others…so we can advise them on what to eat and drink and how to protect themselves from blood pressure problems.”
Although Pakawan has no plans to retire soon, she knows that, as a 52-year-old, she needs to develop good habits today so that she can sustain an active and happy life as she ages. She has adopted these habits into her own life and is now spreading them person-to-person to help others achieve the same long-term health goals.
Visit www.kenan-asia.org/healthy-aging-society to learn more about the Pfizer Healthy Aging Society project.