Students give Rx for Philippine health care system
This time, it was the patients who gave the prescription.
When pediatricians asked Filipino high school students what should be done to improve health and education, the answers were a revelation worthy of the attention of grownups.
From spending less time on the computer and staying away from junk food to better public and private sector support to health care, some 1,000 students said their piece in an on-the-spot essay-writing competition organized by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS).
Held in celebration of PPS’ 65th anniversary, the contest became the Filipino youth’s referendum of sorts on health care, with their inputs envisioned to form part of public and private sector planning of health and education programs for the youth.
“They have enough awareness about health. They know quite a handful about government programs, and they know about all the distractions they face, like technology, modernization and consumerism,” said Dr. Rosemarie Jean Jaucian-Poblete, chair of the PPS diamond anniversary organizing committee.
“They also know that they have a personal responsibility for their health. As they’re growing up they have dreams, but to [realize these dreams], they need to be nurtured and guided,” Poblete said.
With the theme “Creating Sound Minds and Bodies: Health and Education Working Together,” the competition was conducted simultaneously on Nov. 11 in 11 sites nationwide in partnership with the SM Cares program of the SM Supermalls.
Third year students from 115 public high schools wrote their essays within the specified one hour. The winners each received a P5,000-cash prize.
Bicol winner Richard Manuel de Castro of Ligao National High School noted how computer addiction could turn a potential school athlete into a weakling, or a possible honor student into a sleep-deprived junkie who could barely keep up with the day’s lessons.
“With every hour that the oblivious student spends in front of the radiation-emitting LCD screen, his grades suffer,” De Castro wrote.
“The parents can encourage their children to spend more time together as a family instead of spending hours on the computer. Or the students can do the most powerful thing to banish addiction: Just say a big, firm NO and engage in worthwhile hobbies,” he added.
De Castro also noted how teenagers’ love for junk food could be detrimental to health. He called on parents and teachers to guide children toward healthy eating, adding that “educators hold the responsibility of giving detailed discussions on the significance of healthy lifestyles.”
“Children eating junk foods are proven to become less immune to diseases, [or] physically and mentally weaker, and it can also lead to obesity… It still depends on the collaboration of the teachers, the parents, and the students themselves to save them from these health demons,” he wrote.
Lesson in TB
Tacloban winner Nina Anjelika dela Cruz of Leyte National High School learned of the perils of an unhealthy lifestyle the hard way when she contracted tuberculosis early this year.
Apart from staying up late for school work, she admitted, she would sneak in time to go online to see “what’s in and what’s not.”
“In fact, I stayed up late so often that my uncle swore I could work at a call center since I have already adjusted to being ‘nocturnal’ on most days. In the past, I didn’t mind staying up late if it meant getting important tasks done. My not-so-healthy diet and sleeping habit didn’t bother me so much until the day the doctor said ‘positive’… when my suspected tuberculosis was confirmed,” Dela Cruz wrote.
The health scare led to a turnaround and Dela Cruz, now all better, is enjoying the gains of taking better care of herself.
“Six months later, here I am, joining speech choir competitions and running once again across obstacle courses. I start my day right by staying healthy… I learned the hard way, but I am grateful that I have. One good thing that came out of my mistake is that other students like me can learn from it,” she said.
In her winning essay, Metro Manila winner Beatrice Victoria of Rizal High School in Pasig City wrote about the challenges to childhood in the Philippines, including child labor, malnutrition, poor access to quality education, and poverty.
She said that schools should serve as “havens” for the development of future leaders, and that educational institutions should “endeavor to train their students to be changers of tomorrow.”
“The world today is rapidly evolving and to keep up with it, every society must adapt to change. Who will be the catalyst of this change? Who will lead toward the betterment of our society? The answer lies in the future of tomorrow: the children,” Victoria wrote.
As her response to PPS’ challenge on what could be done to improve health and education, Victoria used the organization’s acronym.
“It’s P [for] promotion of health and education, P [for] protection of children’s rights and S [for] supporting healthy competition,” she said in an interview, echoing what she had written.
Laguna winner Joseph Erickson Atento took a different look at “Therapy” in his piece, turning the word into an acronym for his prescription toward better health.
“Trust in God, Having a positive mental disposition, Eating nutritious and nourishing food, Regular exercise, Proper hygienic measures and, lastly, Yielding friends through socialization. Simply follow these things and I assure you, a better life is a step behind you,” said Atento of Laguna State Polytechnic University.
PPS president Dr. Genesis Rivera said the students’ inputs would be integrated into PPS’ other outreach and advocacy activities in the hope of informing both public and private sectors of health and education efforts.
“We came up with the essay-writing contest on the importance of health and education because we wanted to hear the voice of the youth…” Rivera said. “We will incorporate [their thoughts] in our activities, our advocacy projects. And I think we achieved our aim, which is actually to hear their voice, what they really want, what they think of the situation.”
Poblete said PPS would put together a formal report on the students’ outputs and furnish copies to the education and health departments.
She said PPS was also preparing to provide college scholarships to deserving students in 2012.