Villas espouses prevention in Healthy Living Lecture Series kick off
Posted: 03/05/2004
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Bringing a powerful message of the importance of self responsibility and prevention when it comes to health, Dr. Paul Villas, executive director of the Border Health Office at The University of Texas-Pan American, kicked off his office's Healthy Living Lecture Series February 10. The lecture series was developed as part of the UTPA Provost's Initiative on Campus Wellness, started in February, called "Step Up to Your Health."

Villas, a professor in the Health and Kinesiology Department and a Texas commissioner for the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, said in his presentation, entitled "For the Health of It," that health needs to be earned by our behaviors.

"Our initiative is to bring this message to our campus, to our faculty and staff. Hopefully, the spin off will be that we become the healthiest campus in Texas and possibly save you some money by lowering our insurance rates," he said.

Dr. Paul Villas, executive director of the Border Health Office at UTPA, kicks off the Healthy Living Lecture Series as part of the Provost's Initiative on Campus Wellness.
Although the Rio Grande Valley has high rates of heart disease - the number one killer of women and men in the U.S. - Villas said there are also high incidences of diabetes and stroke in the population here.

"However, 99 percent of us are born healthy and in this part of the world new Hispanic moms tend to have better health outcomes than the rest of the population in the U.S.," he said.

Villas used an acronym - L.O.B.E. - to note the primary factors that determine health including lifestyle, organizations, biology and environment. He said 75 percent of a person's health can be attributed to lifestyle although the other factors, especially organizations such as hospitals get most of the attention.

"Recently, a newspaper photo of hospital construction had a headline 'Building Health.' You do not build health with blocks and bricks. Many of us buy into this idea that that we can buy and build it (good health). Health must be earned not bought and we earn health with behavior," Villas said. "What we put into our belly and how much physical exertion or activity we are involved in are the things you can do for yourself - you can't buy these things."

Villas said the old model of death, disease, disability, discomfort and dissatisfaction with an emphasis on treating to cure with more hospitals, beds, medical equipment and drugs has changed to a new model incorporating the five P's - prevent, promote, protect, preserve and prolong.

"In 1900 the life expectancy was 47 years while in 2000 it was 77 years. Of the added 30 years, five years have resulted from medicine and technology, while the other 25 years have resulted from public health efforts such as clean water, safer and a higher quality of food, quitting smoking and exercise promotion," he said.

Villas said the old model has "done little for few with much more expense" and the new model "will do much for many with less expense."

Villas said education is important to health. "Educational attainment is one of the most powerful predictors of health," he said.

According to Eddie Quintanilla, health education coordinator in the Border Health Office, the Lecture Series will hopefully be offered at least once a month and provide door prizes and other incentives to attendees. Upcoming presentations include "The Truth about Fad Diets," March 11 at 12:15-12:50 p.m. in the Ballroom by David Salazar, senior health education coordinator in the Border Health Office. Brown bag lunches will be provided to the first 30 people attending that lecture.

On March 16, at the same time and location, Dr. Donna Marie Dugas, chair of UTPA's Health and Kinesiology Department, will speak on stress management.

The wellness program also includes other features such as marked walking paths on campus available on a map, a newsletter via campus e-mail that provides food and exercise tips and a promotion that provided pedometers for those wanting to walk the suggested "10,000 steps a day" during their work breaks.

"The Office of Border Health is promoting prevention and empowering the staff and faculty to be educated, to be more alert or conscious of what you eat and what you can prevent if you stay active. Also, we would like to have an impact on the University of bringing the insurance rates down. Wouldn't that be great?" Quintanilla said.

For more information, contact the Border Health Office at 381-3687.