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Ulam, Malunggay, and MyPlate: Creating a Culturally Tailored Health Educator Guide for Filipino Americans

by Jamie Michelle Prudencio

My name is Jamie Michelle Prudencio, a third-year Public Health major at California State University, Northridge. Growing up as a daughter of Filipino immigrants, I lived in Historic Filipinotown, where my parents both worked two jobs. My parents attempted to make homemade meals but with their busy schedule, we often ate at fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds and Little Ongping. It was common for us to eat unhealthy foods since it was always important to at least eat, but my parents tried their best to provide us with fresh fruits and vegetables at some point in our day. Like for many Filipino Americans, deep fried foods (i.e. lumpia, fried tilapia, fried bananas), canned foods (i.e., sardines, anchovies, spam), and large portions of white rice during our meals was part of our regular diet. Studies have shown that there is a high association between diet and chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and overweight/obesity. My own experiences growing up and learning about the link between diet and chronic diseases has inspired me to learn more about Filipino American dietary behavior.

I was involved in a research project which was conducted by APIFM and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, with guidance from my mentor Dr. Edith Chen, Professor of Asian American Studies at California State University Northridge. The project consisted of focus groups which examined how Asian American dietary behavior compared to the USDA guidelines for healthy eating as visually captured by the graphic MyPlate. I assisted with focus group research through recruitment, note taking, transcriptions and data analysis. A better understanding of Filipino Americans’ dietary behavior and knowledge have been found through this project. Filipino American meals often consist of ulam- a one pot meal where both vegetables and meat are cooked together, and eaten with rice. Filipino Americans customarily eat unrestricted portions of ulam and rice. In comparison to MyPlate, Filipino American meals are not pre-portioned, separated by food groups. Hence, they may have a difficult time gauging if they are eating enough vegetables or overeating protein and carbohydrates due to this dietary practice. In fact, studies have suggested that Filipino Americans do not meet the minimum daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption while at the same time consuming excessive carbohydrates. Perhaps these dietary practices explain in part why Filipino Americans are at greater risk for chronic diseases.

Making materials, such as a culturally tailored educator guide, accessible to Filipino Americans can help promote healthier lifestyles and prevent the growing rate of chronic diseases. Based upon the focus group analysis for the Filipino American group, I developed a research presentation titled “Ulam, Malunggay, and MyPlate: Creating a Culturally Tailored Health Educator Guide for Filipino Americans,” which was presented at a university-wide student conference at CSUN this past April. You can see the PowerPoint presentation here or below.

 

Ulam, Mulungay, and MyPlate (1)

 

 

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