August 19, 2016

Steps towards nation re-building

Aung Myint Oo

Almost-free gadget that works somewhat like a trendy ‘FitBit’ and totally free mobile phone app to track daily steps for those who sign up to take part in the programme. Still not enough as enticements? Then how about some shopping vouchers to purchase anything you like from a famous local grocery store and chances to win one of the several lucky draw prizes including complimentary holiday packages i.e. to-and-fro air tickets and hotel stays at most popular destinations? Yes, this is not about someone’s daydreams. This is real and a good example of how an impactful health promotion programme should be designed. Of course, rewards are not for everyone but only for those who manage to meet the targets set.
In the later part of 2015, Health Promotion Board of Singapore launched a very attractive programme named “National Steps Challenge” with an objective to encourage Singapore residents to be more physically active every day, anytime and anywhere.  That programme offered, as described above, a free wearable steps tracker to early birds and almost free of it to the rest who sign up to participate in the programme together with a free mobile phone app to track daily steps. Those taking part will earn points based on their daily step counts which later on can be used to redeem sure-win rewards such as variety of shopping and grocery vouchers.
That programme has been received extremely well by the public.  News about the programme spread like a wild fire from mouth to mouth among office colleagues or neighbours.  Steps trackers ran out of stock quickly and people wearing it became a common sight everywhere be it in offices or on public transport vehicles such as buses or trains or around neighbourhoods.  People started consciously making efforts to achieve the daily target which is usually 10,000 steps and beyond.
A good health promotion programme should not just tell the public what to do or not to, it should also help them make their behavioural changes happen. Meaning there should be enablers readily available and accessible at an affordable price for those contemplating to change their lifestyles.  Programme should be based on the outcome of robust assessment of the issues at hand so as to come up with meaningful and practical solutions. It should also be subjected to a good implementation and marketing research before it is launched to ensure that finite resources are not wasted.  Companion programmes e.g. healthy diet, weight management, screening tests, quit smoking and moderate drinking should go hand in hand to gain synergistic effects from a holistic approach.
Locally, in Myanmar, the Ministry of Health and Sports may wish to consider this type of programme as a kick-start towards a nation-wide healthy lifestyle movement for the public.  If it is considered not very appropriate or timely to begin as a mass programme aiming at general public as target population this time around, there is no harm trying it as a pilot or targeted programme for a selected group e.g. civil servants.  If the Ministry of Health and Sports wish to carry it out as a model programme of public-private partnership, there is little doubt that one of the private telecoms operators would be willing to co-sponsor that kind of programme which fits very well into the criteria of an excellent CSR (corporate social responsibility) activity or even a good marketing initiative.
Shall we start counting “steps towards nation re-building” collectively as a happy and healthy Myanmar?

Reference: (1)


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