Teaching Filipinos about the benefits of practicing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge. Just ask Dr. Adolfo Bellosillo, president and founder of the Foundation for Lay Education on Heart Diseases (FLEHD), who had to conceive a novel way of holding his organization’s free public lectures.
Bellosillo, who is also the head of the Makati Medical Center’s Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit, said: “A lot of people will always be unreceptive to lifestyle changes, especially when these changes will involve overhauling one’s diet and doing regular exercises. We can’t just tell them during the lecture don’t eat these fat- and salt-loaded foods when they are so enticing, readily available and quickly prepared. We can’t just convince them to do a 30-minute brisk walk every morning when their hectic work schedule would not allow it.”
To remain encouraging to the audience, Bellosillo thought of incorporating song and dance after each of the public educational program’s lecture proper.
“Songs are a common tool to help pre schoolchildren learn the fundamentals, such as the alphabet. Moreover, Filipinos love music and they love to sing (the ‘harana’ of yesteryears and today’s karaoke) so why not make our audience have the same approach,” said Bellosillo, who is also senior consultant of the MMC Echocardiography and Treadmill Exercise Laboratory.
More than 400
Since 2000, Bellosillo has organized more than 400 of these public educational programs that incorporate such one-of-a-kind musical cum lecture. These two-day lectures cover various topics such as making heart-healthy lifestyle changes as well as various cardiovascular conditions affecting Filipinos. “I would say the lecture cum musical past has evolved through the years. From just a few songs, I was able to write dozens more and even incorporated dance performances on some of these,” he said.
In the upcoming public educational program, Bellosillo said he again made another revision.
He said: “Previously, one has to attend all the lectures, which run for two consecutive days. In the revised program next month, I decided to hold it every other Saturday starting May 4. Each session—on May 4 and 18 and then on June 1, 15 and 29—is able to stand alone by itself, meaning it doesn’t link in with any of the other parts of the program. Of course, I would still recommend that he/she attend all the five lectures, considering the topics we will cover.”
The FLEHD’s Public Education Program: How to Remain Young at Heart (in words, music and dance) will be held at the Multipurpose Hall, eight floor of the Makati Medical Center’s Tower 2 from 1 to 3 p.m. Joining Bellosillo in the lecture proper are doctors Enrique del Fuerte and Rojohn Maliwat.
“After each lecture, classical singers from the University of the Philippines Concert Chorus will perform the songs. Moreover, a number of these songs will have dance interpretations courtesy of Lisa Macuja’s Ballet Manila,” Bellosillo said.
Since the public education program is free and seats are limited, Bellosillo suggested that interested individuals and groups to contact 706-2983 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for reservation. They could also drop by the hospital’s Heart Station Preventive Cardiology Unit located at the third floor of MMC’s Tower 2 for more information and reservation.
“This upcoming public education program seeks to address those who are busy but still want to learn more about heart disease,” said Bellosillo. He said the first hour and a half will be devoted to lecture from the expert and will then be followed by a 30-minute Q&A portion.
“After each topic, the audience will then be treated to a musical whose words are actually lectures that summarize the earlier topic discussed. While I wrote the lyrics, classical pianist and University of the Philippines College of Music Voice graduate student Jeremiah Calisang provided the music while Ballet Manila’s Osias Barroso took care of the choreography,” the doctor said.
Public health hazard
Bellosillo is especially worried that hypertension is now considered a public health hazard.
According to data provided by the Department of Health, 25 percent of Filipino adults, or about 14 million of the current adult population, have high blood pressure.
“Unfortunately, many who are diagnosed often do not have access to treatment and their conditions are not adequately controlled,” said Bellosillo.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to the hardening and thickening of the arteries, which increase one’s chance to suffer from heart attack, stroke or other complications; aneurysm; thickening of heart muscles, which can lead to heart failure; weakening and narrowing of blood vessels in the kidneys, which can prevent these organs from functioning normally.
High blood pressure, if left untreated, could also cause the thickening, narrowing or tearing of the blood vessels in the eyes, which can result in vision loss; or clustering of disorders of the body’s metabolism—including increased waist circumference, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol, high blood pressure and high insulin levels.
The most recent Philippine health statistics data show that in 2009, about 167,000 Filipinos died from heart disease and stroke. Half of these tragic deaths are likely related to high blood pressure.
An analysis done by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies further revealed that 34 percent of all cardiovascular deaths are happening prematurely or at age below 60 years, ending the life of many Filipinos during their supposedly most productive years.