If you want to stop drinking, Pahola can be the solution. The world’s first digital health worker launched by the Pan American Health Organization (OPS) is ready to help everyone to reduce the consumption of alcohol and the problems that this act causes.
Pahola is a digital woman specialized in alcohol and health with kinky hair and a smiling smile devised by PAHO thanks to artificial intelligence, that seeks to combat the growing harmful consumption of alcohol in the American continent.
Through the cell phone, tablet or computer, anyone can chat with her in Spanish, Portuguese or English, and if you prefer to write to her, “Because sometimes the machine may not understand the accent,” said Maristela Monteiro, an expert in alcohol consumption at PAHO. The digital specialist proposes the user to answer a questionnaire, to know their origin, age, how much alcohol they consume, but “es completely anonymous and confidential, data is not saved”, Assures Monteiro. Then he proposes to do a test so that the person who consults will realize how much alcohol he drinks.
Alcohol consumption takes a heavy toll in the Americas, with some 379,000 deaths a year directly or indirectly, according to PAHO data. According to PAHO, between 8% and 10% of the population over 18 years of age in the Americas suffers from an alcohol use disorder, defined as harmful use of alcohol or dependence of this one. But about 80% of people who need treatment do not receive it because services are underdeveloped or unavailable. In addition, during the pandemic of COVID-19, that type of attention decreased or was discontinued, while alcohol consumption increased in several countries, favored by online sales and home deliveries.
“Alcohol is the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among people between the ages of 15 and 49“Said the doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a video message during the launch of Pahola. “New technologies, including artificial intelligence, are powerful tools for expanding access to information and care, and we expect Pahola to be very successful in America and around the world,” said Dr. Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Regular alcohol consumption also increases the risk of liver cirrhosis and some forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, adds organization. If the person decides to cut down on alcohol consumption, Pahola can help them create a plan that includes identifying triggers and how to deal with them, says PAHO, but is not a substitute for an expert.
Empathic and trilingual
Pahola speaks Spanish English and Portuguese. She is empathetic and non-judgmental, and she can provide general information about the risks of alcohol consumption and communicate interactively and confidentially with people. The digital worker is able to help assess risks related to alcohol users through a series of questions and, if people decide to cut back, Pahola can assist them in drawing up a plan that includes identifying triggers and how to deal with them. You can also refer people to alcohol treatment services.
The doctor Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO’s deputy director pointed out that the goal is to help people better understand damage caused by alcohol consumption, increase access to reliable information, facilitate self-assessment of risks related to alcohol consumption and take concrete measures to reduce it.
“Pahola does not replace direct contact with professionals health, but it can support the services available and encourage the entity to seek the help it needs, ”explained Barbosa. She proposes setting a consumption limit and recommends writing it down. Then he suggests seeking support, family or group, rewarding yourself with something other than alcohol when results are achieved and writing down how much is consumed.
“If the person is at risk, they refer them to an organization and if there is a suspicion that they do not feel well when they stop using due to abstinence, too,” says Monteiro. Pahola is programmed to motivate people, as it is based on the principles of motivational interviewing. He makes jokes and interacts. If they tell her that she is very beautiful, she answers that it is because she does not drink and that allows her to have an enviable complexion. “Not consuming is the healthiest thing but consuming less can also help you. You decide how much, ”says Pahola, blinking.
According to the doctor Anselm Hennis, PAHO Director of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Pahola can increase alcohol education “in settings where we simply don’t have enough health professionals to provide free or low-cost information and support.” It was created in collaboration with animation company Soul Machines and PAHO’s creative partner, Rooftop, and is the second digital persona designed to combat preventable health problems, after Florence, launched in 2020 by WHO to quit smoking. .
The new tool is a complement to other PAHO measures to reduce risky consumption in the region, including assistance to countries to strengthen public policies such as the effective establishment of alcohol taxes, comprehensive restrictions on the sale and marketing of alcohol, and improved treatments.