Shaping Minds, Shaping Bodies

| Written by Arlyn VCD Palisoc Romualdo

A healthy mind in a healthy body. A sound mind in a sound body. Mens sana in corpore sano. This old adage points to the ideal condition of a human being’s health—that a healthy person is one who achieves both intellectual and physical well-being.

In the academe, where intellect and brains take center stage, physical wellness seems to be relegated to the background. It may be recognized as an important pursuit but perhaps not as important as stimulating and cultivating the mind.

Looking at the assertion of “mens sana incorpore sano” in the context of university life begs the question: How can one’s mind truly be sound when the body is not equally healthy?

At the University of the Philippines, the need to focus on physical health and wellness was officially addressed by the UP System administration in 2013. Then UP President Alfredo Pascual ordered the creation of two committees: one on healthy lifestyle and wellness, and the other on health and medical benefits.

Physical health for productivity

Health and wellness programs are an integral component of preventive care, in which one of the main goals is to be physically healthy to reduce the risk of developing common non-communicable diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in a 2002 report said that the risk of having cardiovascular disease, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer decreaseswhen engaging in physical activity. The WHO also identified four domains of physical activity in people’s everyday lives: at work, in transport, in housework, and in leisure time.+

In the Philippines, a comparison of the 2003 and 2008 surveys on physical activity conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology showed that in the occupational or at work domain, physical inactivity in Filipino males aged 20 to 65 has increased from 67 percent to 76.3 percent. Filipino females of the same age range, on the other hand, displayed the opposite, with physical inactivity in the occupational domain decreasing from 82.1 percent to 76.2 percent.

Limited physical activity in the workplace may be considered an occupational risk and an organization that provides an enabling environment for physical fitness programs through policies and facilities can maintain and even improve the physical well-being of its workforce to ensure efficiency and productivity.

In UP, the urgency of conducting a needs assessment and developing “appropriate programs and activities for UP faculty and staff to promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle, in support of productive academic and administrative work” was addressed by the creation of the UP Healthy Lifestyle and Wellness Committee in January 2013 through Pascual’s issuance of Administrative Order (AO) No. PAEP 13-01, followed by a number of more localized directives.

From Zumba to bikes

All constituent university (CU) administrations and their respective committees on health and wellness provide support to wellness initiatives by providing funding, granting the use of facilities and official time, endorsing activities, or spearheading the programs themselves.

All CUs are equipped with health care facilities with varying levels of capability—from clinics or infirmaries to a tertiary hospital—that attend to the health needs of their constituents. Across the UP System are basic services like physical examinations of incoming freshmen and annual medical examination of UP employees.

Health and wellness programs, projects and new infrastructure among the various UP constituent units : UPOU Pilates group.

While some health and wellness programs like physical fitness activities are common among CUs, there are some initiatives that are distinct to a CU.

UP Manila (UPM), the University’s health sciences center and home of the UP-PGH, the country’s largest government tertiary hospital, has always been cognizant of the importance of achieving overall health—physical, mental, and social. Its initiatives on health and wellness begin with answering the most basic need: a healthy and safe work environment.

Apart from adhering to standards of health and safety, UPM also emphasizes disaster and emergency preparedness, peace and order, and public safety as crucial to the achievement of a truly safe and healthy workplace. It is in this environment that its employees are enabled to pursue health and wellness. Because of UPM’s expertise, its employees are able to access a wealth of information through training programs, lectures, symposia, and available resource materials.

The UPM community enjoys annual free health consultations at the UP-PGH Health Service and a 20 percent discount on selected services during confinement at the UP-PGH. For students in particular, UPM offers discounted immunization every August as it celebrates Immunization Month, free counseling services, free psychosocial services, and monitoring of suicide risks.

Physical fitness programs that promote camaraderie among UPM constituents include Zumba sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays and, for faculty and staff, the annual conduct of team-building activities. In a bid to encourage physical activity, UPM Chancellor Carmencita Padilla issued a memorandum in May 2016 encouraging breaks for physical activity from 10:00 am to 10:15 am and from 3:00 pm to 3:15 pm to reduce tension in muscles that have remained in one position for too long.

“A healthy body makes for smarter people, and a healthy mind means better physical health. Academic institutions tend to privilege the mind, and forget the body,” UP Diliman (UPD) Chancellor Michael Tan said in an interview with the UP Forum, so his administration is using the “integrated approach.” He cited three major initiatives to promote wellness: the development of UPD’s primary care facility, the University Health Service (UHS), in terms of infrastructure, services, and equipment; the development of sports facilities to ensure improved access to quality facilities; and “from non-existent Diliman-wide psychosocial services,” the creation of a team that provides them.

The Health and Wellness Management Committee of UPD (later renamed the UP Diliman Wellness and Healthy Lifestyle Committee) was formed in February 2013. The heads of various units were asked to designate coordinators to act as point persons in the dissemination of information on healthy lifestyle, planning and implementation of wellness programs in their respective units in close coordination with the UPD committee, and regular reporting of possible disease outbreaks or occurrence of disease as well as active participation in implementing public health and infection control measures.

Dr. Jesusa Catabui, UHS Acting Director and committee member, told the UP Forum that with the end-goal of achieving a healthy UPD workforce, each unit is encouraged to establish a wellness hub as well as wellness programs. She reported that some units in UPD have already instituted these.

Apart from lectures, symposia, and training workshops on healthy lifestyle promotion and disease awareness, the committee also partnered with other campus organizations like the UP Community Chest in conducting the annual “Walk for Wellness,” among other physical fitness activities. It tackled stress management through a seminar titled“Detoxify your Workplace.” The committee hopes to eventually institutionalize a program on healthy snacks “especially during staff or committee meetings, [hold] a dance fitness group contest and a ‘bike for wellness’ [event].”

In addition to committee initiatives, UPD has policies that prohibit smoking inside buildings, smoke belching, and idling of vehicles. Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs Castro told the UP Forum that the administration has also funded health and wellness activities and the construction of wellness centers in the UHS and Palma Hall. It was also able to secure a donation of 40 pieces of outdoor fitness equipment in 2015.

The UHS in Diliman and LB

Integral to UPD’s promotion of health and wellness and delivery of services is the UHS, which, Catabui said, has received enormous support from both the CU and UP System administrations. In the last six years, it was able to purchase upgraded equipment and before President Pascual’s term ended in February this year, received allocations of P125 million from the UP System for building renovation and P11 million to replace aging equipment.

UHS services include, among others, primary emergency care, confinement, medical and dental consultations, laboratory and diagnostic services, vaccination, psychosocial screening of incoming freshmen, health information campaigns, nutrition counseling, and dance fitness sessions.

Like UPD, UP Los Baños (UPLB) also has its own UHS, which, the CU administration said, “has been looking after the overall health of UPLB students, faculty, and staff for more than 100 years.” Unlike UPD, UPLB’s UHS is a secondary hospital with operating rooms, a delivery room for normal and caesarian section cases, a neonatal intensive care unit, a newborn screening unit, a dental clinic, a laboratory service unit, an X-ray and ultrasound service unit, electrocardiography, and endoscopy, among others. Improvements to UHS infrastructure amounting to P40 million are in the pipeline.

It has the Diabetes Education and Nutrition Clinic which offers consultations, counseling, and insulin therapy. It conducts relevant screening procedures at least once a month and layman lectures for diabetes patients every quarter. The UPLB UHS also has the Student Health and Welfare Clinic, which “seeks to improve the psychological and socio-emotional health of the students, especially those who are at risk of self-injury.”

Health and wellness programs, projects and new infrastructure among the various UP constituent units. Photo from UPLB Office of Public Relations

Beyond the UHS, UPLB annually holds its sports fest called “Palarong UPLB,” participated in by members of its community. This year, the previously week-long event ran for two weeks and included a tournament of the online battle game, Defense of the Ancients, more popularly known as DotA. These changes were instituted to make the sports fest even more enjoyable for UPLB’s constituents.

Athletic competitions such as UPLB-International Rice Research Institute Dual Meet and the UPLB-Central Luzon State University Friendship Games are also spearheaded by the UPLB Sports and Recreation Committee, which was constituted in 2013. The UPLB administration described its academic and administrative units as proactive in organizing health and wellness activities.

The College of Human Ecology has the Elderly Development Program focused on senior citizens and retirees of UPLB and surrounding communities, with monthly and yearly activities and services that address their “biopsychosocial needs” as well as the annual Senior Citizen’s Summit.

The College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Human Kinetics, through its Move It or Lose It Program, actively promotes health and wellness by organizing regular activities such as community aerobics and cardio fitness, badminton and lawn tennis competitions, swimming sessions, sports clinics, flexibility tests, body mass index measurements, fun runs, summer fitness programs, and dance programs. These activities are aimed at fighting the effects of inactive lifestyles and preventing injuries due to strain from repetitive motions and immobility—the body’s posture when using gadgets, long periods of sitting in front of and typing on the computer, etc.

Similar to UPM’s drive to provide a safe and healthy environment for its constituents, UPLB also focuses on maintaining the campus as a clean, safe, and well-equipped space where health and wellness can be achieved.

Because UPLB is the recognized leader in agriculture and related fields, nutrition is also a critical part of its bid to achieve physical health. UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez issued a memo in January 2016 promoting the use of quality protein maize (QPM) blend among its concessionaries and caterers. This blend consists of 70 percent rice and 30 percent Corn QPM Var 6, a corn variety developed by UPLB’s Institute of Plant Breeding. It is a healthier alternative to pure rice, especially for diabetics and those at risk for diabetes, because of its low glycemic index and high-quality protein.

Across islands and cyberspace

For its part, UP Visayas (UPV) told the UP Forum that its wellness activities are based on the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 38, issued on 30 September 1992. The CSC memo enjoins government units to implement a physical and mental fitness program for its personnel, authorizing the state agencies to utilize an hour each week, preferably 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, for health awareness programs, and use 20 minutes of each working day, before or after 10:00 am or before or after 3:00 pm to conduct fitness programs.

The creation of the UPV Wellness and Healthy Lifestyle Committee in August 2013 allowed the CU to streamline its health and wellness programs. The committee maintains UPV’s commitment to physical fitness through activities such as the UPV Chancellor’s Cup, an inter-office basketball tournament, the annual UPV Sports Fest, and the Shape UP Visayas Program.

Photo from Brenda Lynn B. Arroyo, Chair, UPVHLWelCom

The committee has conducted fitness tests, and organized twice-weekly sessions of flexibility and strength exercises, cardio exercises, and dance/aerobic exercises. It held a two-day seminar-workshop called “Awareness to Wellness: For a Healthier and Progressive UPV” and has facilitated the participation of its constituents in events like Run UP, CSC Fun Run, PhilHealth Fun Run, and other similar activities. It even assisted the municipality of Miag-ao in the organization of a Fun Run to commemorate its 300th founding anniversary.

This year, the committee, in partnership with the UPV Department of Physical Education, has lined up the following fitness activities: Zumba, band exercises, body weight exercises, free weight exercises, line dance, basketball, badminton, stretching, walking, social dance, basic tai chi, and basic arnis.

Despite its academic environment being located in a virtual space, the UP Open University (UPOU) has created a Health and Wellness Committee to cater to the needs of its faculty and staff. Since its constitution, the committee has organized various physical activities such as dance exercise and Pilates. This year, it plans to launch different interest groups in dance, music, sports, biking, and the arts.

The UPOU committee has also conducted lay forums such as “Life Begins at 40,” “UsapingPangkalusugan sa UPOU,” and “UsapingNutrisyon.” Included in this year’s lineup are activities guided by national and international celebrations such as Philippine Heart Month, International Women’s Month, Head and Neck Cancer Consciousness Week, World Immunization Week, Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and Hypertension Awareness Month, among others.

This May, UP Mindanao (UPMin) Chancellor Sylvia Concepcion told the UP Forum that the CU was about to “start gym services since we just had our gym equipment delivered.”

When the CU’s Health and Wellness Committee was formed in early 2013, it undertook baseline studies among UPMin employees, asking them to answer a survey on healthy lifestyle and looking at anthropometric and physical fitness levels. Since then, it has initiated various physical activities such as sports, aerobics, dance, walking, jogging, weight training, fun runs, and biking.

It also conducted a physical fitness test two years after its inception and last year, undertook a survey among UPMin constituents for their preferred wellness activities. Forums on hypertension, mental health, food safety, and diet and nutrition were also organized. The committee also encouraged participation in annual events like blood-letting for the Philippine Red Cross, CSC Fun Run, parades for Araw ng Dabaw and International Women’s Day, and the Kadayawan Festival.

Photos by Rene Estremera, UP Mindanao

UPMin also has its annual sports fest called DULA (game), which began in 2013 and is held from September to October. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni join in the games and sports events which include men’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, chess, lawn tennis, table tennis, and running. There are also exhibition games in football, scrabble, and DotA. Prior to the holding of DULA, “warm-up games” are held in some units. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences has Hampang (play/game). The College of Science and Mathematics has Dula-Dula, while the administrative staff hold Pa-UgnatsaKusog (stretching the strength).

UPMin also prides itself in making its campus conducive to outdoor activities and providing facilities such as fields, courts, and a gym to its employees and students. Moreover, the administration encourages local farmers to sell their produce and other food products to UPMin employees.

UP Baguio’s (UPB) health and wellness program also targets both physical and mental well-being. Its Health and Wellness Committee was created to study and discuss policies, procedures and strategies on UPB’s overall health, with particular attention to a “proactive system of dealing with mental health issues aside from the customary guidance and counseling,” according to UPB Office of Public Affairs Director Roland Rabang. For physical fitness, it has Zumba workouts three times a week. UPB has also partnered with the women farmers of Atok, Benguet to sell organic vegetables on campus every Monday.

In UP Cebu, the Health and Wellness Committee implements regular programs on physical fitness such as exercises, recreational sports, and competitive sporting events. Its list of programs and activities include wellness lectures, stress management workshops, counseling, emotional and psychological support groups, interest groups, information sharing, posture and voice wellness training, quarterly campus cleaning, injury prevention, blood pressure and weight monitoring, fitness week, incentive programs, and a health maintenance organization to cover employees and their dependents.

As for employees of the UP System, there are no physical wellness programs catered specifically to them. Because their base of operations is in UPD, some of the health and wellness initiatives of the campus, especially those of the UHS, are also open to them. It is worth noting that the UP System does not have its own Human Resource Development Office (HRDO) to serve the needs of this set of UP personnel.

Lecture on stress management techniques. Photo by Jennifer Diaz-Guimpol, UPB Office of Public Affairs

eHOPEforcurative care

While health and wellness programs move to prevent the onset of diseases, curative or rehabilitative care aims to cure or manage an existing illness. The University also addresses this need. It has a program to help its employees undergo curative care, a new version of which was implemented at the beginning of this year.

The Enhanced Hospitalization Program (eHOPE), approved by the UP Board of Regents (BOR) in November 2016, replaced the Financial Assistance Program for Hospitalization Expenses (FAPHE), which the Board approved in May 2010.

FAPHE provided a one-time P200,000 fund for each employee across the UP System, where hospitalization expenses may be reimbursed after deductions for PhilHealth. In 2013, President Pascual constituted a team headed by Dr. Dennis Mapa of the UPD School of Statistics to study the health care needs of UP students and employees and subsequently submit policy recommendations. Three years later, Pascual constituted a committee to formulate a medical benefit program for UP employees. Mapa, who had already become Statistics dean, also chaired the committee.

Mapa told the UP Forum that during the course of the team’s study, the members realized the scope of looking into the health care needs of both students and employees proved too large and recommended that these groups be studied separately. The decision was then made to focus on employee medical benefits first.

In its report to the UP President’s Advisory Council in September 2016, the committee benchmarked against the medical benefit programs of BangkoSentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Metrobank Card.

The committee also analyzed the utilization of FAPHE from 2010 to 2015. During that period, 1,805 employees claimed reimbursements from FAPHE. Based on the number of UP employees in 2015, the claimants made up around 15 percent of the total 12,491 employee population. The average claim was P47,738.00.

Significant among the committee’s findings, Mapa said, were that 56.28 percent of claimants were aged 55 and above, and that 8 percent of the claimants have already used up at least P160,000 of their P200,000 FAPHE benefits, with some already having reached the limit.

Based on its findings and adjusting for inflation, projecting employee behavior, and considering funding limits, the committee proposed eHOPE, which provides an annual hospitalization fund of P80,000 with P10,000 medicine allowance for prescribed medications during confinement and upon discharge.

The eHOPE guidelines were releasedin January 2017 via Memorandum No. PAEP 17-05. Claims under eHOPE are still processed as reimbursements and granted after deductions for PhilHealth and other medical health cards have been exhausted. The guidelines also state that “partnerships through agreements with the nearest government and private hospitals shall be initiatied by each of the [CUs] to include a ‘no-cash-out’ arrangement for the patient.”

UPOU has also strengthened the implementation of eHOPE for its employees. In May 2017, it reported the signing of memoranda of agreement with the Los BañosDoctor’s Hospital and Medical Center, and HealthServ Los Baños Medical Center to allow UPOU employees admission without the need for any initial deposit. They just need to present a letter of authorization from the UPOU administration and their UPOU ID. UPOU HRDO Chief Administrative Officer Michael Lagaya said that the UPOU is also exploring partnerships with hospitals in areas where other UPOU employees are based such as Calamba and San Pablo in Laguna, and in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Inauguration of physical fitness programs in UP Cebu. Photo from UP Cebu

Challenges remain

Despite these health and wellness initiatives, the University is still faced with challenges in the continued and successful implementation of these activities.

According to Catabui, some of the factors that affect physical health and wellness in the UPD campus, for example, include the physical environment—“air pollutants coming from the exhaust of vehicles, uncollected garbage, peddling of unsanitary food, stray dogs and cats, stagnant canals”—as well as stress and workload, enforcement of the smoking ban, etc. She added that financial and other means of support are also needed by underprivileged sectors on campus such as indigent students who lack dorm accommodations or cheap but healthy food. Support for them means their need to seek employment may be averted so their energy and focus remain on their studies. Catabui also mentioned giving more health privileges to contractuals and outsourced personnel.

The UPD UHS, in particular, lacks human resources, especially in its Public Health Unit, which “will go full time in the conduct of activities for wellness.” Catabui also pointed out the lack of logistics, where the UPD UHS sometimes relies on the UP Community Chest, a private charitable organization, to help fund wellness activities. She also said that annual physical examination for employees should be compulsory and that the University should strongly act against the abuse of substances such as illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.

Prof. Rita Ramos, chair of the UPOU Health and Wellness Committee, said that one of the challenges faced by committee members is allotting time to creating programs “amidst their obligations as full-time employees.”

As head of the committee that proposed eHOPE, Mapa informed the UP Forum that he hoped the separate study on student medical benefits will push through, following the implementation of eHOPE for employees. One challenge he saw was the discrepancy in capability of each CU’s health care facility. He also said that the committee noted in its meetings that the UP-PGH does not have a flat rate discount for UP employees across the UP System.

As a whole, the University can still do more when it comes to strict compliance with CSC memos on physical and mental fitness and nutrition. One memo, for example, prescribes that government canteens serve low-cost and nutritious recipes, using only iodized salt to prevent iodine deficiency; ensure that fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk and fruit juices are served during office meetings; provide iron supplements to employees, particularly women; and coordinate with the National Food Authority and the National Agricultural and Fishery Council “for the fielding of a rolling store or a cooperative marketing unit selling basic food commodities at low prices in the agency premises.”

Outdoor exercise equipment installed at UP Diliman. Photo from VCCA Nestor Castro, UP Diliman

The Duterte administration’s no-smoking policy also has to be applied more strictly in all UP campuses, and Executive Vice President Teodoro Herbosa—himself a surgeon and former DOH undersecretary—has directed the creation of designated smoking areas in the larger campuses.

But all told, all you have to do is look at the scores of joggers, walkers, and people playing football and throwing Frisbees at the Sunken Garden on any afternoon or weekend to see how deeply the fitness bug has bitten UP, for good. Shaping minds that shape the nation, as UP likes to describe its mission, means shaping up as well.

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