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Starting them Young

Posted on November 6, 2022 | No Comments on Starting them Young

Even as advances in technology continue to make our lives easier, our children are paying a higher price for all the convenience of eating fast food (read: instant and processed) while playing their favorite games on the computer without even breaking a sweat.

If not addressed, this kind of sedentary lifestyle that prompts kids to spend most of their waking hours indoors will eventually lead to obesity and related complications like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. And even as parents are primarily responsible for the physical and mental well-being of their children, educational institutions and health organizations play an equally important secondary role.

With its primary goal of introducing a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition and physical activity at a young age, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists—Philippine Chapter (AACE—PC) has been at the forefront of a program known as Power of Prevention through Fitness and Nutrition or simply POPTFN. First implemented in the United States, POPTFN was modified and revised for the Philippine setting, and since its launch in the country in 2007, the program has been successfully integrated into the curriculum of a growing number of schools here.

“POPTFN is an advocacy project of the AACE—PC against obesity and diabetes, which focuses on grade 6 students of various schools here in the Philippines,” says Dr. Florence Amorado-Santos, chairman of the AACE—PC Committee on Special Projects in the latest POPTFN accomplishment report. “This is composed of five modules, which will be integrated in the Science or Physical Education classes of the students.”

Six schools initially participated in the project. They are St. Bridget College in Batangas City (297 students), St. Scholastica’s College in Manila (200), St. Joseph’s College in Olongapo City (200), St. Peter The Apostle School in Manila (180), PAREF Woodrose School in Alabang (180), and De La Salle Santiago Zobel also in Alabang (270).

Dr. Amorado-Santos explains that the program works with a “Train-the-Trainors” half-day session for designated faculty members that will act as facilitators for the modules. Module 1 includes pre- and postvisit quizzes, a slide presentation on the current Philippine statistics of the overweight and obesity problem among adolescents, along with serving size samples, emphasis on the importance of proper nutrition and physical activity, and anthropometric measurements of the students to be done on the first day and on the sixth month follow-up.

In Module 2, an oral contest on the different body systems based on the handouts given was conducted, followed by Module 3 involving a nutrition activity teaching students on the different vitamins and minerals, healthy food alternatives, and serving sizes by using cooking utensils. Module 4 is all about healthy meal preparation and learning how to read food labels plus analyzing nutritional information found on food packages, while in Module 5, the students were taught the importance of daily physical activity and learning how to use pedometers.

“In the course of the program, we found that most of the students are not practicing good nutrition and physical activity to maintain ideal body weights and healthy living,” says Dr. Gertrude Santos, also a member of AACE–PC Special Projects Committee. “More students are overweight in the private schools than in the public schools. Based on the classification of the World Health Organization, most public school students are underweight.”

One interesting aspect of the POPTFN project was the food items that were distributed as “materials” for each section during two modules. Module 3 included peanuts, mango and pineapple bits, M&M coated chocolate candies, corn flake cereals, watermelon seeds, and banana chips. To ensure that the right quantity of food was consumed, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and Styrofoam bowls were also included.

In Module 4, each section was given sliced bread, canned pineapples, Cheez Whiz, canned pork and beans, raisins, cereals, hotcake mix, cookies, and granola bars. A pedometer—a device used to count each step a person takes by detecting the motion of the person’s hips—was also given to each student.

Used by sports and fitness enthusiasts as a motivational tool to improve and enhance their physical actitivy, Dr. Santos says that it was “the first time that the students learned about pedometers. They were very excited about the idea.”

Dr. Amorado-Santos reported that to date, more than 1,000 students have already completed the POPTFN modules. One of the more prominent personalities that were impressed with the program is Senator Edgardo Angara, who pledged more support every year for the project. The SEAALA or the Senator Edgardo Angara Active Lifestyle Award was so named in recognition of his landmark legislative contributions in the fields of health and education such as the Free High School Act, the Generics Drug Law, Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, Breastfeeding Act, and the law that created PHILHEALTH, to name a few.

The SEAALA is awarded to 12 students who showed exemplary performance during POPTFN’s implementation in the respective private schools. To qualify for these awards, the students are provided with an activity and food diary to be filled up for the succeeding 30 days.

During the first 15 days, they are required to log the different kinds of food they have eaten, whether healthy or unhealthy. The remaining 15 days is intended as a log of all their activities. Afterwards, a final exam prepared by the POPTFN committee will be given. The result of this final exam, along with the pre- and posttest scores and their performance for the duration of the program, will determine who deserve the SEAALA honors.

In line with Senator Angara’s suggestion that the program be implemented in public schools, the AACE–PC welcomed two more public schools to POPTFN; namely, Santa Rosa Elementary School Central 1 and the Betty Go Belmonte School.

As it continues to develop further, the AACE–PC Special Projects Committee plans to increase the number of both private and public schoo that will participate in the OPTFN project, even as the ganization envisions its eventual ntegration in the curriculum of public schools throughout the country.

“The next step is to prepare the presentation for the Department of Education,” says Dr. Santos. “Our dream of incorporating the POPTFN program to the educational system both in the private and public schools will now be in its working stage.”

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