As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis our generation has never seen before, we must recognize the unique opportunity it has provided us with to experience and appreciate personal health in a way never done before, and in so doing, find a way to promote SDG #3, good health and well-being.
The creation of a sustainable world – and reaching economic, environmental and social goals – is highly dependent on having a thriving and healthy human population. This is why the coronavirus has rocked the world, leading to a multitude of socio-economic challenges that have contributed to the world economic growth being slowed by a rate of 0.1% in the last few months. At this moment in time, the travel industry has been crippled, entire companies are shutting down and workers in the service industry are facing the prospect of going months without pay.
While the effects of the virus are widespread and devastating, we can and already have started to learn from it. An example of this can be seen among the youth, who are leveraging social media as a way to spread awareness and information about the virus. The youth in Kenya have been particularly enthusiastic with this approach, going as far as organizing an online concert to raise awareness about the virus and emphasize the importance of maintaining one’s mental health while in quarantine.
This has resulted in a wider appreciation for our health and wellbeing on social media. While this may not seem like much, it presents itself as a contributory factor to the control of COVID-19 and the promotion of SDG #3 as a whole, both now and in the future. This has been demonstrated by a 2018 study by the University of Birmingham, as it reported that up to 46% of youth surveyed made health related choices based on the social media content that they consume.
Public bodies, organizations, companies and health authorities also have a responsibility to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 is contained and that the lessons we are learning from it are acted upon and replicated. However, we as individuals need to match their efforts as well, so as to minimize the effects of the current pandemic and avoid public health crises like these in future. In a similar spirit, the efforts of the youth doing their part to contain the virus should not go unnoticed nor unsupported, as groups such as the Global Shapers have been able to impact more than 50 countries.
Access to information and access to healthcare facilities are basic rights all over the world, and this is something that we can all contribute to at an individual and social level, with or without financial resources. Thus, as we hope for a swift end to this pandemic, we must remember to internalize and replicate the lessons that we have learned concerning the utility of social media as an information sharing tool in such times. Benjamin Franklin famously stated that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but I don’t think him, nor anyone else for that matter, would have ever thought that a post a day could save hundreds of lives.