PAHO launches “Pahola”, a digital healthcare worker who can help risky drinkers reduce their alcohol consumption – PAHO / WHO

Pahola relies on artificial intelligence and can also provide information on the impact of alcohol on health and treatment resources in America.

Washington, DC, November 19, 2021 (PAHO) – The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) today launched Pahola, the world’s first digital health worker to specialize in alcohol and health, in an effort to help countries in the region reduce rising rates. of harmful drinking.

“Alcohol is the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among people between the ages of 15 and 49, so any tool that can help people reduce their risk and live a healthier life is welcome,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director -General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a video message at the webinar’s launch of Pahola. “New technologies, including artificial intelligence, are powerful tools for expanding access to information and care, and we hope Pahola will have great success in America and around the world.”

Designed to be empathetic and free of judgment, Pahola can provide general information about the risks of drinking and communicating interactively and confidentially with people. She can help assess users’ alcohol-related risks using a series of questions. If people then decide to cut back on drinking, Pahola can help them make a plan that includes identifying triggers and figuring out how to cope with them. Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, she can also refer people to alcohol treatment services.

“PAHO’s goal with Pahola is to help people better understand the harms caused by alcohol consumption, increase access to reliable information, facilitate self-evaluation of alcohol-related risks, and take concrete steps to reduce alcohol consumption,” PAHO’s Assistant Director Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said. He added that Pahola is not intended to replace direct contact with health professionals, but aims to encourage people to seek help.

Alcohol consumption takes a heavy toll in America, leading to about 379,000 deaths annually due to related diseases, injuries, poisoning and poisoning. Regular alcohol consumption also increases the risk of liver cirrhosis and some major cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Between 8% and 10% of the population over the age of 18 in America have an alcohol abuse disorder (AUD), defined as harmful use of alcohol or alcohol dependence. But about 80% of the people who need treatment for AUD do not get it because the services are poorly developed or inaccessible. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AUD services were further disrupted while alcohol consumption increased in several countries, aided by online sales and home deliveries.

Dr. Anselm Hennis, director of non-communicable diseases and mental health at PAHO, stressed Pahola’s ability to meet health needs in America. “At the same time, Pahola can talk to millions of people who want to assess the health risks of their drinking. She can significantly increase the delivery of alcohol education in an environment where we simply do not have enough health professionals to provide free or cheap information and support. Many people can reduce their alcohol consumption with simple but effective advice. “

Pahola complements other PAHO efforts to reduce risky drinking in the region. These include helping countries strengthen public policies such as effective taxation of alcohol, comprehensive restrictions on alcohol sales and marketing, and the improvement of treatment interventions.

This week, PAHO also launched the public awareness campaign “Live Better, Drink Less” to raise awareness about the harmful effects of alcohol in America.

Pahola was created in collaboration with the autonomous animation company Soul Machines and PAHO’s creative partner, Rooftop. Pahola, the second digital person designed to combat preventable health problems, follows Florence, which was launched in July 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to stop tobacco.

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