WE CONGRATULATE the awardees in the 1st Healthy Lifestyle Exemplar Awards given by the H&L (Health and Lifestyle) magazine. These individuals, groups, institutions and organizations have sustained activities and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle advocacy and are able to effectively inspire positive changes in the health-seeking behavior of other people in the community or the bigger population at large.
It was the first of what is committed to be a biennial search for these healthy lifestyle champions. The awardees this year are Dr. Adolfo B. Bellosillo, for excellence in public health education; Dr. Willie T. Ong, for excellence in health journalism and public health; the missionary couple Lanie and Ely Matuga, for excellence in community service; the National Center for Health Promotion (NCHP), for excellence in health education and public service (government institution category); Philippine Heart Association (PHA), for excellence in public health education (professional organization category); and “Salamat Dok” (ABS-CBN), for excellence in health education and public service (mass media category).
Four other finalists in the search were given plaques of commendation for their healthy lifestyle advocacy programs. These are Manila Adventist Medical Center (MAMC), for integrating healthy lifestyle education in patient care; Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates International Inc. (AYNLA), for health education and public service; Novartis Healthcare Philippines, for its health promotion program “Be Healthy”; and “Pinoy MD” (GMA), for health education and public service.
Board of judges
The board of judges was composed of top authorities in Philippine medicine and was chaired by Dr. Ramon Abarquez Jr., emeritus professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. The other judges were Doctors Abdias Aquino, Ramon Arcadio, Rebecca Castillo, Fernando Melendres, Camellia Posoncuy, Francisca Roa and Antonio Villalon.
Sen. Edgardo Angara delivered the keynote speech to set the tone for the awarding event. The author of several landmark laws on health and social welfare, such as the Senior Citizens Act (or The Angara Law) that allowed the elderly to avail of substantial discounts when buying medicine or riding public transport; and the National Health Insurance Act, or PhilHealth, that provides health insurance to every Filipino; the Breastfeeding Act, and the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers stressed the importance of health promotion in the progress and development of any country including ours.
Former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, herself a staunch advocate on health promotion, also graced the occasion to personally give the award to the healthy lifestyle exemplars.
H&L is a monthly magazine for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals that aims to draw more consciousness to the vital link between one’s lifestyle and one’s health. In one of its editorials, it has paraphrased a famous saying: “Tell us what one’s lifestyle is, and we’ll tell you what his or her health condition is.”
It focuses on doctors and healthcare professionals as its targeted readers because in every community, the people look up to their doctors and other healthcare professionals as their model when it comes to health-promoting behavior. A doctor who is a healthy lifestyle advocate—by action more than words—will be a more convincing example who can influence his patients, and perhaps his community, to also have a healthy lifestyle.
On the other hand, a doctor who has a pack of cigarettes on top of his table or who’s frequently seen in beer houses does not stand a chance to positively influence his patients’ lifestyle. Neither does he serve the cause of the healthcare community in convincing legislators that these vices are really harmful to one’s health; hence, all efforts, including legislation such as the sin tax bill must be passed to curb these vices.
Although there are already existing health advocacy awards, the organizers of the event believe the more of these healthy lifestyle champions who are recognized, the more chances that others would get inspired and encouraged to follow the example to become health champions. The more the number of staunch healthy-lifestyle advocates, the better, because there are also strong and highly funded “anti-healthy lifestyle forces” in any society especially in developing countries like ours.
These negative forces have a way of ingraining their vested interests into the minds of unsuspecting victims through their own mass media campaigns; and inducing our countrymen to make unhealthy choices. These not only pertain to tobacco products and alcohol but other agents that increase one’s health risk—like fat and salt-laden foods, remote-control gadgets and devices that make things very convenient for people and induce them to become sedentary.
We hope our health exemplars could inspire more people to become health champions. We salute them and may their tribe increase.