Pilvikki Absetz: Why are the Finnish people still so susceptible to national diseases?
According to Absetz, the risk factors, prevalence, and prevent of national diseases have been studied for several decades. The most recent studies have shown that changes in lifestyle may also alleviate symptoms of mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
"A great deal of work has been done in Finland for the prevention of national diseases by the State as well as municipalities and organizations. Nevertheless, Finnish people still fall ill and die from diseases that could be prevented, postponed, or, at the very least, better managed through lifestyle decisions."
For example, the FINRISK study from 2017 found that nearly 60 percent of the working-age population is overweight. In Finland, the differences between population groups as regards healthier habits, health, and life expectancy are significant.
Large, rapid changes that require substantial capacity, motivation, and opportunities are often emphasized in the media. According to Absetz however, increasing motivation where it is lacking is not the key issue. In her research, she aims to develop methods for easier change, and for supporting this change particularly in the work of health care professionals.
"As an advocate of public health, I hope that we can focus increasingly on two things: ensuring that we can provide equal access to health-enhancing environments for everyone, and identifying the things people already do at least occasionally to improve their health and to help them turn those things into routines."