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Healthy schools prevent lifestyle diseases

/ 12:31 AM October 18, 2014

The World Health Organization estimates that NCDs (noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and those affecting the cardiovascular system) account for up to 35 million deaths worldwide every year, or up to 60 percent of all deaths annually.

Of this number, 78 percent occur in developing countries. In the Philippines, a total of 309,000 NCD-related casualties were recorded by the Department of Health in 2010 alone, which far exceeds any deaths of natural or manmade causes.

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Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto M. Sobrepeña aired this concern at the Oct. 2 launch of “Let’s Build Healthy Schools” campaign at the GT-Toyota Asian Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

The key solution to the creeping epidemic of NCDs befalling the country’s population would be for Filipinos to start young on the path to proper diet and nutrition. As such, propagating healthy diets in schools was the focus of the 6th Dona V. Tytana Memorial Lecture organized by the GT-Metro Foundation.

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Healthy-eating habits

This year’s main lecture by Metrobank Foundation Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators president and UP College of Nursing professor Dr. Josefina Tuazon aimed at empowering schools to educate and influence their respective students in their critical formative years so that they would adopt healthy eating habits well into their adulthood.

Among the panelists at the lecture were former senator Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng, who shared her experiences as president of the Diliman Preparatory School; Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag, who related how he led the Pilipinas Go4Health campaign; Marie Ann Abacan, principal of Sophia School in Meycauayan City, Bulacan; and Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, who announced the efforts of the local government toward healthier lifestyles.

The Diliman Preparatory School was identified as the DOH’s pilot health-promoting school, while the Sophia School won the 2013 DOH Outstanding Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy—school category.

Among the four components of the Healthy Lifestyle Promotion (HeLP) campaign is the “Oh My Gulay!” project in partnership with the Department of Education and East West Seed Foundation.

Schools going veggies

Inquirer Science/Health had previously featured the Sophia School canteen, which provides fresh local fruits and juices (dalanghita, mango, watermelon) and soy milk, brown rice and offers vegetarian fare such as congee with tofu bits and boiled rootcrops (gabi, ube and camote), vegetarian burgers, veggie nuggets and lumpiang shanghai and ready-to-eat viands like vegetarian sisig and kare-kare.

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Across the world, school cafeterias are shifting to vegetarian food fare. A private school in Calabasas, California was reportedly the first vegan school in the United States. The owners said they wanted their school to be environmentally conscious, and that their efforts went beyond healthy diets as they also aim to reduce their establishment’s carbon footprint.

In 2013, New York Daily News reported that a school in Queens went vegetarian. According to the report, the school “swapped sloppy joes (a type of beef sandwich) and fried chicken for organic roasted tofu and braised black beans, and the kids were not complaining.”

Students at the top-rated Public School 244 in Flushing, also in Queens, have exhibited longer attention spans and better academic scores since the school went vegetarian, school officials said. The school was recognized by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group that promotes plant-based diets, for becoming the country’s first public school to serve vegetarian-only meals in its cafeteria.

On the local front, advocates such as Sobrepeña are leading the charge toward a more sustainable nutrition program for Filipino youth. He stressed: “Noncommunicable diseases emerged as a topic of concern from our discussions with the UP Manila outstanding teachers. These lifestyle diseases veil their actual state and potential impact to human health and social development due to their chronic nature and slow progression.”

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TAGS: Diet, diseases, Education, Health, Lifestyle, NCDs, non-communicable diseases, schools, WHO
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