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Promoting Filipino Healthy Lifestyle

More than a decade ago, Filipinos were unaware of a silent killer called obesity. They simply took having a round belly and a rotund physique lightly. Unfortunately, obesity could lead to a string of problems—from simple mobility problems to serious complications including diabetes.

However, through the pioneering efforts of doctors who wanted to raise awareness to as many, if not all, Filipinos they could reach, the Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity (PASOO) was born. The brainchild of Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua, the PASOO was formed in 1994. Ever since then, it has made a commitment to make the country an obesity risk-free nation through research and advocacy programs.

Rage against obesity
Dr. Rosa Allyn Sy, PASOO’s current president, is very proud of the programs they have come up with to help combat obesity. She relates that their very first endeavor, The Whiz Kids Through Fitness Program, which targeted grade one through grade three students from St. Scholastica’s College, was a success and is still on-going four years after it was introduced. “We believe that healthy lifestyle should start early in life..”

She furthers that the curriculum of PASOO are incorporated in the physical education and nutrition classes of Grade 1-3 pupils with the main objective of giving important informations on healthy lifestyle for children in that age group. “I believe that creating awareness amongst these pupils is an important and worthwhile step in shaping a healthy Philippines,” says Dr. Sy.

Adding to the Whiz Kids program is a summer workshop for children which started two years ago. Commenting on the summer wellness program, Dr. Sy says, “Although it’s just a half-day program, we believe that by giving education and information on healthy eating habits and regular exercise to kids and their parents we could make a difference.”

Another project initiated by PASOO was the Pyramid Choice. A bold move by the organization, the goal of the project was to encourage restaurants to provide healthy food options for those with medical conditions. The organization hopes, however, for this project to gain more support from restaurant chains as consumers get to be more health-conscious through time.

The Filipino Food Pyramid Guide and The Filipino Pyramid Activity Guide were designed together as an information campaign so that “hand-in-hand we can instruct patients on what they can eat, and the things they need to do to maintain a healthy weight,” explains Dr. Sy.

However, the most successful of all the projects of PASOO is the Wellness Summit which was initiated two years ago. “For a minimum fee of P20, the delegate who enters the trade hall will learn a lot on what obesity is, how it comes about and how to manage it,” shares Dr. Sy.

She adds that the summit has booths which are assigned with different topics. But the “number one booth is very important because they measure your height and weight, then tell you if you are obese or not, and if you are they give advice on what you should do,” relates Dr. Sy. Other projects being done by PASOO are their annual scientific conventions and their post-graduate obesity courses.

Not stopping with just campaigns
Aside from the lineup of activities which keep the organization very busy every year, PASOO is also very dedicated to providing research to doctors and other healthcare professionals.

According to Dr. Sy, through the research efforts of the association, we can now cite some statistics on the prevalence of obesity in our country. Despite the limited financial support, PASOO has managed to come up with some research outputs. On a good note, Servier Philippines was cited by Dr. Sy for giving them support to start their very first research.

Since then, PASOO never once stepped on the brake to continue providing very important data that would help make people more aware, and hopefully help stop the rise of obesity epidemic in the country. Dr. Sy proudly shares that PASOO is happy to be an important contributor of the nutrition survey carried out by the Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society, Philippine Hypertension Society and the Philippine Diabetes Association in cooperation with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute and the Department of Health.

Bright and promising future
Dr. Sy adds that PASOO works closely with other societies/associations like the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Philippine Diabetes Assocciation and the Philippine Heart Association in the fight against obesity and its complications.

Although Dr. Sy says that not having any obese people in the country is still beyond their reach, she sees that PASOO would be able to influence a lot of Filipinos in the future. “Today, we are happy that doctors and other professionals are really aware of the need to do something to stop this epidemic,” she says.

The combined efforts of Dr. Sy and her board of officers have kept PASOO’s flame burning. Despite grueling hurdles during its early years—getting support from the public and other organizations, and financial setbacks—the organization continues to stick to its mission.

Dr. Sy says that the most important contribution she has brought to the society is stressing the importance of healthy lifestyle at an early age. She emphasized the programs PASOO has created for the children, such as the program on the school and the summer workshop. However, she makes sure that people belonging to different age groups are not compromised.

On a final note Dr. Sy adds that the “Wellness Summit is not an easy project. It is one project that requires lot of guts because of the expense involved. But with the commitment of the officers and its board of directors, nothing is impossible,to achieve the mission and vision of the association.”

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