Pinoys not increasing height due to ineffective health programs

Posted September 9, 2020

A bill passed in the Senate on the reduction of the required height for police and military applicants in the country could mean that health and nutrition programs being pursued by government has remained ineffective and could even cause stunted growth among Filipinos.

Senate Bill No. 1563 or the proposed “PNP, BFP, BJMP and BuCor Height Equality Act,” will repeal the existing height requirements for applicants in the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and Bureau of Corrections. One of the main proponents of the legislation in Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, a former chief of the PNP.

Ben Punongbayan, chairman of Buklod, a national political party, finds it odd that the police and military had to lower the height requirements. “Obviously, the police and military are not having enough recruits because of the previous taller height requirements,” he pointed out.  To him, the issue reflects a retrogression of some sort and is contrary to the global trend of height increasing over time. He noted that height is strongly correlated to nutrition.

Punongbayan cited surveys of weight and height of Filipinos done by the Food and Research Institute in 2003 and by the Food and Research Institute Unit of the Department of Science and Technology in 2013. In 2003, the average height of Filipinos aged 20 to 39, the tallest of the age groups was at 163.49 centimeters, which is equivalent to five feet and 4.4 inches for men and 151.76 centimeters or 4’11.7” for women.  In 2013 for all adults aged 20 years and older (not segmented further as in the 2003 survey) was 5’4.2” for men and 4’11.6” for women.  He said while the statistics for both years are not completely presented in the same way, the difference is not significant.


World map of stunted growth for children in different countries (percentage moderate and severe stunting, 1995-2007) Courtesy of: Statsilk

World map of stunted growth for children in different countries (percentage moderate and severe stunting, 1995-2007) Courtesy of: Statsilk


“This comparison clearly shows that the height of adult Filipinos has not increased over a period of 10 years, from 2003 to 2013. It is likely that there was also no improvement up to 2020, judging by the said decision made very recently by the police and the military. Obviously, Filipinos on the average are not improving their nutrition,” Punongbayan said.

He pointed out that this observation does not speak well of the effectiveness of any national health programs that the government is pursuing. “It brings to mind the observation by others that many of our very young are not developing normally and are likely to have stunted biological development. This is much worse, because these very young Filipinos are likely to grow mentally challenged. They may become more of a liability to society rather than an asset who can help in the national development efforts.”

In 2013, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) identified the Philippines as the 9th country in the world with the most number of stunted children.

It gets much worse. The 2020 Global Nutrition Report reports on country-level progress towards eight of the 10 global nutrition targets—anemia, low birth weight, exclusive breastfeeding, childhood stunting, childhood wasting, childhood overweight (including obesity), adult obesity (men and women) and adult diabetes (men and women)—showed that the Philippines and 87 other countries do not have any indicator for meeting any of the targets.

Punongbayan believes that it is high time that the government should evaluate critically the allocation of its scarce resources and provide more funds for human development, including health and nutrition. “This national undertaking must be given urgency,” he said.


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