Promoting healthy lifestyles should be part of the discussion as we learn to live with COVID-19

SOLITUDE: A lone runner jogs in Tumon in this November 2020 photo. Doctors have noted that Guam has higher rates of diabetes, obesity, of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease than our counterparts in the mainland. Such comorbidities create vulnerabilities to COVID-19. Post file photo. 

More information on how to stay or get healthy has to be added to the public health campaigns to help bolster our island’s overall ability to stave off COVID-19 as well as other illnesses.

Doctors and other health and local officials continue to encourage residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and statistics do show that most of the people getting so sick they have to go to the hospital or even dying aren’t vaccinated.

Statistics also show that those who are vaccinated and still experience severe symptoms or die have other health conditions, according to statistics and doctors.

Data shared by Department of Public Health and Social Services shows that in 2021 - up to Oct. 14 - there were 13 COVID-19 related fatalities who were fully vaccinated, which is about 14.6% of the total deaths, but all “had multiple co-morbidities.”

Dr. Ann Pobutsy, territorial epidemiologist, and Dr. Annette David, along with other doctors, have noted that the rates of co-morbidities are much higher here in Guam compared to the nation. Dr. David serves as chairperson of the Guam State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup.

“We just looked at these indicators for the community health assessment and the rates of diabetes, obesity, of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease are higher here in Guam,” Dr. David stated during a recent press conference. “As a whole our people are probably not as immunocompetent as the populations you would compare with in the U.S.”

There are some things we can’t avoid that can increase vulnerability to COVID-19, particularly those conditions that a person is born with such as asthma or congenital heart disease, or age - doctors have said that people who are older generally don’t have strong immune systems.

But there are things well within our control that can help boost a body’s ability to survive COVID-19. And considering that doctors also acknowledged that COVID-19 is here to stay, then perhaps promoting healthy lifestyles within our community is a necessary part of the “new normal” that comes with “living with COVID-19."

A public health campaign about healthy food choices or ensuring that public parks are well lit and made safe by frequent Guam Police Department patrols would be great places to start. There are some favorite spots, such as Dededo Sports Complex, Asan Beach Park, Paseo Stadium's loop, Tiyan, the roads circling the University of Guam and Guam Community College - all are great places to run, walk, bike, or even enjoy yoga with family members - but they get sketchy or downright scary in the early mornings or evenings.

Dr. Hoa Nguyen, of American Medical Clinic and former chairperson of the governor’s Physicians Advisory Group, has talked about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. He said it makes him happy to see people out running or walking, or generally being active - particularly outdoors.

As a physician he tells his patients that “exercise and fresh air is the key” to being healthier and keeping at bay obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure - which are co-morbidities of COVID-19.

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