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Parents, family members urged to be role models for healthy lifestyle vs. obesity

DAVAO CITY (PIA) -- Parents, adult family members and other stakeholders are key players and role models in promoting a healthy lifestyle to combat obesity among children.

Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) gastroenterology and nutrition consultant Dr. Perlina Quitain raised this call amidst the alarming increase in obesity cases among school children in the country, ages 5 to 10 years old, and adolescents ages 10 to 19 years old, from four percent in previous years to 13% in recent years.

Dr. Perlina Quitain (right), SPMC gastroenterology and nutrition consultant, emphasizes the importance of having parents and adult family members as role models in promoting a healthy lifestyle to combat obesity among children.

“Before, we were only thinking of undernourished children. Now, we have obese children. In fact, one in every 10 children, five to 10 years old, is obese. This is also found in adolescents, meaning 10 to 19 years old, one in every 10 adolescents is also obese,” Dr. Quitain said during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Davao on September 11.

She added, “Before ang problema lang nato diri sa Philippines was undernutrition, but now we have what we called the double burden of malnutrition, both ends of the spectrum – undernutrition and overnutrition or what we call obesity.”

Dr. Quitain explained that children, based on their age, are considered obese when their body mass index (BMI) is above the 95th percentile from the 5th to 85th percentile, which is considered normal.

She added that an unhealthy lifestyle primarily contributed to obesity among children and adolescents.

The following are also factors that lead to obesity: lack of exercise, high intake of sweetened drinks rather than water, inadequate sleep, and consumption of junk foods and other empty-calorie foods like baked goods and ice cream.

Also, she mentioned the use of gadgets among the young population as a factor in obesity, noting that gadgets limit children from moving around.

Dr. Quitain noted that obese children and adolescents are at high risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and even fatty liver.

The recommended plate components and food group proportions on a per-meal basis for kids, ages 3-12 years old, as indicated in DOST-FNRI’s "Pinggang Pinoy" food plate model. (Photo courtesy of DOST-FNRI)
The recommended plate components and food group proportions on a per-meal basis for teens, ages 13-18 years old, as indicated in DOST-FNRI’s "Pinggang Pinoy" food plate model. (Photo courtesy of DOST-FNRI)

She pointed out that obesity among children and adolescents is preventable by promoting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially by having parents and adult family members act as good examples.

She said, “We (parents, adult family members) should be role models for these children, for these kids, so we should be role models in terms of doing exercises at least one hour in a day, drinking water instead of sweetened beverages, we should get enough sleep… We should avoid junk food and instead focus on nutritious and healthy.”

Participation of the entire family in activities that promote healthy lifestyles, like exercising, is also highly encouraged.

DepEd-XI Regional Director Allan G. Farnazo visits a school canteen in Maa, Davao City to check the foods and beverages being sold to the students. (Photo courtesy of DepEd-XI)

In terms of the use of gadgets among children, she urged parents to limit their children's exposure to gadgets and instead let them go out of their homes and play with their friends and playmates.

Dr. Quitain said that SPMC has been visiting schools in the region to conduct advocacy campaign among school children and their parents regarding obesity and ways to prevent it. For instance, they have recently conducted engagements with schools in Davao City as part of the celebration of Nutrition Month in July 2023.

As obesity is prevalent among school children in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued DepEd Order 13, s. 2017 in March 2017, mandating the promotion and development of healthy 

eating habits among the youth and DepEd employees by making available healthy, nutritious, and affordable menu choices, and setting food standards.

Since then, it has been implemented in all public elementary and secondary schools, learning centers, and DepEd offices across the country. Although not mandated, private educational institutions are highly encouraged to adopt or implement the same policy.

One of the mechanisms of the policy is that all school canteens are mandated to strictly adhere to the set of food standards - which foods and beverages are allowed to be served to the children and which are not, and ensuring that the foods and beverages served fulfilled the requirements of a “healthy diet.”

Particularly, the food standard that is being followed is the “Pinggang Pinoy,” a food plate guide developed by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) that aims at helping Filipinos determine the kind of food and the proportion to be consumed per meal.

Moreover, the National Nutrition Council (NNC) has also outlined overweight and obesity management and prevention programs in their Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN).

Under the PPAN, the local government units (LGUs) are encouraged to take seven steps to promote a healthier community.

The province of Davao Oriental sets up booths where various vegetables, fruits, and other agri-fishery products are displayed for public can buy during the celebration of Nutrition Month last July 2023. (Photo courtesy of PLGU Davao Oriental)

These include promoting local production of healthy foods, ensuring accessibility and affordability of healthy food to all families, building community and home gardens, providing walkable spaces for the community, enacting local legislation supporting DepEd policy, promoting healthy eating among the constituents using “Pinggang Pinoy,” and organizing regular physical activities for all age groups. (ASO/PIA-XI/Thumbnail photo from UNICEF Philippines)

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Antonino Oblianda

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