Monday, July 30, 2012

The Path to Good Health is a Social Issue Just as much as it is a Personal Concern

* I remember I wrote a blog article a year ago about making healthy choices and our inability to make them. "I just want to ask the surrounding culture to be supportive of our desire to change," I said in my blog entitled "My Life is Preventing Me from Changing My Lifestyle" (

* Right now, that personal plea has been amplified and it looks like that my level of involvement as a part of that "surrounding culture" has increased. I'll break down this blog entry into bite-size, bulleted paragraphs so I can express my reflections and revelations in a way that I won't be obsessively concerned about structure and sentence construction (that would take 5 hours to write), so here it goes...

* The world tells us that it is cool to be healthy. So we look for things that are healthy like organic food, sports and outdoor activities, and eco-friendly involvement. The world is telling this to everybody. The problem is that "every body" is different and that "everybody" can be further dissected into several segments of somebody-s.

* I studied an online course in Medical Sociology (a branch of sociology that wasn't available during my sociology undergrad in UPLB so I have to look for it online in a British university's website), and found out that my plea for good health in relation to society's demands is indeed a pressing concern.

* One determinant of health is the social and economic environment (this was confirmed in the Health Impact Assessment of the World Health Organization). And in sociological jargon, health can be more specifically attributed to social class or social status. The lower, middle, and upper class all have diverse problems with lifestyle choices and the usual issues of access to healthcare (ignorance or difficulty), ability to afford treatment, and perceptions and lay beliefs on health and disease prevention.

* Example, you're a student in UPLB and you want to be healthy. You jog after class and then you try your best to be healthy by eating munggo and fried tilapia in the cholesterol-dominated food  industry of Los Banos. It's crazy. We have no choice but to be sucked by the lure of convenience and affordability of fast foods and street food. Not everyone has the luxury of time to buy vegetables in the supermarket and make salads and sandwiches. I think this applies to all social classes. Everybody eats at Jollibee and McDo.

* Recently, a couple of researchers in UPLB went to UPOU and offered a course in Organic Agriculture. I'm enrolled in it right now. I took the course because I was interested in becoming a farmer but I didn't expect that this course would put so much emphasis in promoting good health for the community.

* Organic food is expensive, about 30 to 40% more expensive than your conventionally farmed vegetables. It is expensive because organic farmers put extra effort in maintaining organic farms plus there are only a few organic farms. This means that existing organic farms can't supply the high demand for healthy veggies.

* I decided that I wanted to become a neighborhood superhero and start an organic garden during or after the course ends. We have crazy soil here in our compound, grass and weeds can grow up to six feet in a week!

* So as a contribution to the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and development of a "culture that is supportive" to good health, I will grow organic vegetables for my family and my neighbors. It sounds small-time but it's a good start. Start somewhere, we can't save the world by saying, "I will save the world! Uh wait, it's too big. Maybe next time."

* I conclude by saying that involvement in organic farming is one of the many ways we can develop a "culture of support" to good health in our respective communities. Remember, we should promote good health and proper nutrition to everybody not just to those who can afford to do so or have the means to do so. Let's also look for ways in which we can successfully incorporate healthy and realistic ways of living in the context of our busy society.

Resource Materials and Inspiration:

- Go Negosyo: Joey Concepcions's 100 Inspiring Stories of Small Entrepreneurs - Tagumpay Mula sa Kahirapan

- Module 1 Organic Agriculture, Dr. Calub and Dr. Matienzo, University of the Philippines Open University

- Introduction to Sociology, Mitch Duneier, Princeton University

- Medical Sociology Interactive: A Multimedia Lecture Series, Tom Davies and Dawn Leeder, University of Cambridge

- Fundamentals of Pharmacology, Dr. Emma Meager, University of Pennsylvania

- Community Change in Public Health,  William Brieger, Johns Hopkins University

- Health Impact Assessment, World Health Organization

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