Painting the Streets Healthy

06/11/2015 03:56 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2016

As a medical doctor and Harvard Fellow in Global Health, it's my job to help find ways to unlock healthier populations. In particular, I work on a group of diseases known as NCDs - the-lifestyle related diseases linked with obesity, including diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Largely preventable and enormously cost-effective when avoided early, a major focus of mine is to research, report, translate, advocate for and communicate new and existing ideas for wellness. But in a busy world bombarding us with more and more information, at an earlier age, how do I effectively communicate health messages to a wide audience? In the digital age and noise of 2015, how do I connect tomorrow's health with the 'under 20s' of today?

In many ways, the answer is a '2.0 approach' to health promotion. Utilise the very same technologies now being used to sell unhealthy lifestyles to our teens and young people, but for promoting health. Embrace the digital age and move away from static billboard and pamphlets, encouraging healthier eating or more exercise. Yet for one clinician advocate in Maine, USA, the answer and innovation, is quite the reverse.

HP: a new generation

Health promotion takes many forms. Famously defined in the Ottawa Charter as the process of enabling people to increase control over, and improve their health, the complexity and accuracy of health promotion has moved a long way since the term was first coined in the mid 1980s.

The messages have changed, so have the diseases and conditions they focus on, and the platforms used to deliver them. Infectious diseases and the HIV and AIDS movement, tobacco control and the rise of chronic diseases like heart disease, and the rapid and massive transition from billboards, to mobile phones, internet and social media.

In fact, not much is the same as in the early days of health promotion.

One thing that has remained though, is the power of art and in particular, streetart. Originally an almost clandestine movement of protest against social inequality, exclusion and discrimination, streetart has been famously used time and again to promote health and health messages - often to great success.

In this latest short film from NCDFREE, they follow the work of paediatrician and health campaigner, Dr Kevin Strong (aka Dr Redunkulous) as he paints the town, literally, with a positive health message for children. With his own creative way of taking on the commercial determinants of health and tackling the growing burden of childhood obesity, Kevin is a local champion for a healthier next generation.


To learn more about Dunk The Junk, follow them on Twitter.

Follow Sandro via @SandroDemaio, or watch more below.

The ConversationAlessandro R Demaio is a Medical Doctor and Fellow in Global Health & NCDs at Harvard University.