Illustration by Rey Ian M. CruzONE IN three Thomasian grade-schoolers is obese or overweight, the latest findings of the UST lifestyle development program “Hit Obesity through Preventive Education” (HOPE) showed.

The program found that 33.7 percent of elementary pupils were obese for their age, while 66.3 percent had normal weight.

HOPE recorded 39.1 percent of the participants as obese in 2008.

This was actually a decrease from 2007 figures when HOPE was first launched as a result of the study titled “Childhood Obesity in San Juan, Metro Manila: Its Prevalence, Causes, and Treatment” by former College of Rehabilitation Sciences (CRS) dean and sports science professor Consuelo Suarez. The study earned her the doctorate degree in Health Science from the University of South Australia.

“The goal of the project is to trim the 40 percent to maybe 30 percent, hopefully before all students graduate,” Suarez said.

HOPE, which aims to promote an active lifestyle among pupils, includes activities like weighing pupils and measuring their waistlines every semester. Physical exercises are also held for Thomasian grade school pupils, who also have dance sessions with some CRS interns as part of the program.

In 2007, 40 percent of the first batch of 120 students who participated in the program as a class activity were overweight or obese. The study was later on integrated in the grade school curriculum, participated in by 405 students from grades four to six.

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One is obese if he or she registered 30 or above the biomass index (BMI) system, which measures the proportion of one’s weight to his or her height. The biomass can be computed by dividing one’s weight in pounds to his or her height in inches squared, multiplied by 703.

Reflections of a Thomasian Mother

A BMI between 18.6 and 24.9 means you have a healthy weight, while less than 18 means you are underweight.

Since the grade school department has been on a phase-out mode since academic year 2003-2004, the program only has 240 students from remaining elementary pupils in grades five and six.

The number of student participants is expected to fall to 129 after grade six students graduate this March.

“Because of the positive status of the grade school, we are now working on developing a program for students of the UST Education High School,” said Suarez.

Joyce Reyes, sports science department chair, said that since the project was started, there has been an improvement in the reported cases of dizziness among children.

“When we started the project two years ago, the kids were lampa, there were cases of dizziness. But this year, [there was] not even a case,” Reyes said.

Suarez also said grades of female students were “higher when they were more active.”

The sports science department and the UST Grade School were hailed as the Most Outstanding Healthy Lifestyle Advocates by the Department of Health for its two-year-old anti-obesity campaign.

UST bested 36 other schools under the institution category, while Marikina, Carmona, Cavite and Brgy. Cupang West grabbed the awards for city, municipality, and barangay categories, respectively. The contest had four categories for community, professional organization/society, food establishment and institution. Jennifer Ann G. Ambanta


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