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Urban Lifestyle and Diet Impact Community Health, Finds New Study

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A recent study has offered critical insights into how urbanisation influences community health through changes in dietary habits and lifestyle choices. Conducted in the urban area of the Philippines, the study’s findings, published in Psychreg Journal of Psychology, underscore the urgent need for community-centric health and nutrition interventions in urban settings, particularly in developing countries.

Urbanisation, a global trend, especially pronounced in developing countries, is leading to significant shifts in food habits and lifestyle choices. This study provides a closer look at these changes, exploring their impact on the health and well-being of urban residents. The research indicates that as cities grow, the traditional nutrient-rich diets are often replaced by convenient, processed foods. These changes are closely tied to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, challenging existing healthcare systems and creating new public health concerns.

Utilising a descriptive-quantitative method, the study surveyed a diverse cross-section of the community, gathering data on food and beverage consumption, health status, and lifestyle choices. The demographic predominantly featured females and adolescents, many of whom lived below the poverty line and had limited educational attainment. This provided a comprehensive understanding of the community’s nutritional status and highlighted the socio-economic factors influencing dietary choices.

The study revealed a preference for refined grains like rice, bread, and pasta among residents, accompanied by a high consumption of coffee. This reliance on energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods has been linked to various health issues, including heart disease and respiratory problems prevalent in the community. Additionally, the research highlighted alarmingly high smoking rates (over 85%) and significant alcohol consumption, aggravating the risk of non-communicable diseases.

A notable aspect of the study is the correlation between socio-economic status and health outcomes. Lower income and limited educational attainment were closely linked to poorer dietary habits and a higher prevalence of health issues. These findings resonate with broader global patterns, where urban populations in developing countries face economic barriers to accessing diverse, nutrient-rich diets, exacerbating health inequities.

Despite the presence of community programmes like feeding programmes and “Operation Timbang Plus”, the study found that these initiatives have limited reach and efficacy. Participation rates were low, and there was a notable gap in their ability to induce significant improvements in diet or health. This highlights a gap between the intentions of existing programmes and their actual impact on community health.

The study recommends implementing community-based nutrition education programmes, emphasising the importance of affordable and healthy eating options. It also calls for addressing the high rates of smoking and alcohol consumption, identified as modifiable risk factors significantly impacting community health. Collaborations with local healthcare providers are essential to enhance access to preventive care and improve chronic disease management.

In line with these findings, Sonia Janice Pilao, PhD, the acting research coordinator of the research, planning and monitoring section of Centro Escolar University-Makati in the Philippines, further elaborated on the ongoing efforts. She said: “As of now, we are continuing our research efforts with follow-up profiling in selected barangays. This initiative extends from our previous work and focuses on the concept of community health as a critical component of public health. Community health is uniquely characterised by the involvement of the community members themselves, driven by a sense of volunteerism and social responsibility. The overarching aim is to foster a healthy community environment that benefits all its members.”

Pilao highlighted the importance of community collaboration to address diverse needs and mentioned the challenges faced in this regard. “However, as highlighted in previous studies, there are notable challenges such as workforce shortages, logistical issues, and social, cultural, and psychological barriers to accessing healthcare facilities. These challenges can hinder the sustainability of such initiatives.”

Advocates from a specific university have stepped forward to address these challenges. Pilao noted: “In response to these challenges, advocates from a specific university have stepped forward. Their goal is to provide access to health professionals who can offer guidance and support at a community level, thus enhancing the overall health of the populace.”

A significant aspect of this approach is the community extension programme, led by the CEU-Makati community, known for its annual integrated medical mission prioritising holistic health and healing.

Pilao concluded by discussing the current assessment aims and future plans: “The current assessment aims to gain a comprehensive understanding of the health and wellness status in SKBB Taguig and Barangay Sta. Cruz. The findings from this assessment will be instrumental in developing targeted intervention programmes in the future.”

Furthermore, the study suggests that ongoing research should explore barriers to participation in community nutrition programmes. Understanding these barriers and integrating knowledge from behavioural psychology and community social dynamics, is crucial for developing tailored interventions that address localised priorities.

Understanding these barriers, integrating knowledge from behavioural psychology and community social dynamics, is crucial for developing tailored interventions that address localised priorities.

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