The hidden side of the pandemic

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ana Teresa Leitão, a third year Medical Student from NOVA Medical School, in Lisbon, Portugal. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Since then, the pandemic has brought social, economic and emotional consequences, which have led to stressful moments and multiple challenges all over the world.

According to the WHO, chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, are defined as conditions persisting one or more years which can require ongoing medical attention and limit activities of daily living. They represent major causes of morbidity and mortality, being responsible for more than 70% of the world’s deaths.

The pandemic has had a great impact on people suffering from chronic diseases as a consequence of multiple reasons, such as fear of catching COVID-19 and a decrease in access to healthcare services due to health professionals’ mobilization to activities related to the virus.

In fact, chronic diseases are considered the hidden side of the pandemic. A side that is becoming more and more serious. A side that deserves to be given more attention from us.

We need to enhance primary prevention activities in order to decrease risk factors, especially in the most vulnerable populations. To accomplish that, we should create educational health programs that underline health and well-being’s importance, by teaching exercises to stimulate physical activity, eating a healthy and varied diet and avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption, for instance.

Moreover, we should start investing in distance technologies for patient monitoring and open telemedicine units. Although we should always prioritize in-person contact, telemedicine is a really great alternative during a pandemic, since it provides personalized contact with fast detection of the patient’s parameters, decreases travel and queues to the healthcare centres and enables good communication between the patient and the doctor.

In addition, for those who are not able to get out of their houses, there is a need to create teams responsible for distributing their medication. Medical students should also call them asking how they are and if they need any help. It is a simple gesture that will enlighten their day and will help them fight over depression and loneliness.

On these special occasions, we can’t neglect this group of illnesses that are equally fatal. With everybody’s help, we will overcome this situation. We have to remember that together we are stronger!

About the author

Ana Teresa Leitão is a third year Medical Student from NOVA Medical School, in Lisbon, Portugal. She is a collaborator and author in her Medical’s School journal, FRONTAL, and has been involved in EMSA’s and IFMSA’s work for the past few months. She is also Team Leader in the Events’ Department in a company specialized in communication.She enjoys writing and reading, as well as travelling to other countries and exploring different cultures.

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