Wheelchair battalion

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Saturday, June 7, 2014


THE afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” Poet Robert Frost’s line sums up what a Wednesday forum on “Philippine and Global Perspectives on Aging” seeks to address.

At the University San Carlos, the Office of Population Studies will bring together scholars on aging. A 2010 survey estimated that 6.8 percent of Filipinos are over age 60. That’s below the UN’s 7 percent cut-off point, notes OPS’s Judith Borja.

Given health programs gains, Filipino elderly now “constitute the fastest growing population sector.”

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“This steep aging trajectory” contrasts with the gradual aging experience in industrialized nations. It “gives us less time and resources” to cope with crammed old folk homes.

“Nutrition and epidemiologic transitions” compound the problem. Many shift to diets, heavy on fat, as fast food outlets offer..People ride short distances and few exercise. These jack up “obesity and cardiometabolic diseases.” These usher in “an unhealthy entry into old age.”

Many of the elderly are economically insecure. Some work even when aging muscles scream stop. There is a “narrow window” to address structural and policy changes to meet needs of the wheelchair battalion.

The conference will pinpoint research areas, in the context of findings in other countries. Scientists from universities in North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota and California are resource speakers These will undeprin tomorrow’s aging policy. Keep your fingers crossed.

OPS will present a “longitudinal analysis” based on 3,080 mothers and their children from 243 Cebu barangays tracked since 1983. Yesterday’s infants are today’s grandparents. Some still hold down jobs. There’ve been school dropouts. A number have died and 136 moved out. One was an OFW in Iceland.

Studies like Cebu’s Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS) are rare. Only Brazil, India, South Africa and Guatemala have done similar research. These tracked 11,000 individuals. All had “at least 15 years or more of follow-up.”

Over 31 years, OPS data anchored 125 international and national research projects. They range from pre-birth malnutrition’s effects on blood pressure to parental and peer pressure on young adult sexual behavior. San Carlos completed its examination of new pregnancies among those who were once 1983 infants. This “makes CLHNS a three-generation study.”

In 1983, Fr. Wilhelm Flieger, SVD, who organized OPS, and Nutrition Center’s Florentino Solon crafted, then launched the Cebu longitudinal survey.

Fr. Flieger also pioneered studies on population movements in Philippine uplands, mortality research, etc. And he helped train many of today's Filipino demographers.

A massive stroke cut down Fr. Flieger in 1999. Harvard University’s professor emeritus Nathan Keyfitz wrote: “He was the student and later the associate of whom I was proudest… Of all my students, he went far beyond his teacher.”

“Cebu officials never grasped the significance or value of CLHNS,” we wrote then. Officials instead fiddled with vigilante-style summary executions, buying handguns for barangay chieftains, fudging yen loans, etc. Then mayor Tomas Osmeña saw to it his bodyguard, garlanded by three murder charges, was honored with a Cebu City Charter Day award. Today, they still dabble in such trash.

”The June 11 presentation will focus various dimensions of aging in over 1800 women aged 43 to 75 who have participated in the CLHNS. Indeed, “the afternoon knows what the morning never suspected”.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 08, 2014.

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