The Filipino Women’s Diet and Health Study (FiLWHEL) is a prospective cohort study, targeting Filipino women married to Korean men, designed by Dr. Chang Beom Lee and Dr. Jung Eun Lee in 2014. The primary aim of the study is to explore the lifestyle and clinical factors related to the development of chronic disease among immigrant women in Korea.
A total of 504 baseline population was recruited and is prospectively followed. The FiLWHEL study plans to recruit 500 more Filipino women in due time.
The rapid economic growth in early 1990s evoked a phenomenal paradigm shift in South Korean society. One of which is the change in migration flow. While Korean emigrants heading toward more developed countries seeking better opportunities took major part of the migration, the development of Korean economy altered migration tendency since the 1990s. Indeed, mass immigration especially from neighboring Asian countries increased markedly. Such transformation has two highlighting characteristics; 1) the influx of male foreign workers in labor markets especially in manual-labour occupations or industrial work and 2) marriage migration of females, inducing greater cultural diversity especially through their offspring. Despite the fact those immigrant women and their kids are integral component of Korean society, the health issues are rarely concerned. Marital and acculturation stress emerge through language and cultural barriers, social isolation, troubles between a husband and family-in-law, thus generating a growing demand of research focusing on risk factors of their negative health development.
Why Filipino women?
Filipino women rank fourth among married immigrant women in Korea, following Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese. Large proportion of Filipino women immigrants settle in Korea transferred mainly through marriage between Korean men. Yet, Filipinos have different disease susceptibility compared to that of Koreans.
The UNICEF report in 2014 indicates that a third of Filipino children are at state of stunting or short of their age. Thus, the FiLWHEL research team assumes that considerable number of Filipino women in Korea is at risk of under-nutrition. Undernourishment of this population during childhood, along with possible genetic or behavioral risk of cardiovascular disease is important to explore and research outcomes should be integrated to government’s health related policy. However, little is known about the health condition of this population.
Filipino immigrant women show higher academic achievements compared to other immigrant women in Korea; more than 60% are graduated from 3 or 4-year college in our study. Due to their high academic backgrounds along with English proficiency, the FiLWHEL research team is expecting to minimize communication and consulting difficulty while achieving higher degree of accuracy to the questionnaires.
Study enrollment started in March 2014, and it is ongoing. A Filipino woman is eligible to join if she has ever been married to a Korean man. Participants were recruited through Filipino community leaders, personal contacts, or social media. So far, participants joined the FiLWHEL in regions such as Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon, Nonsan, and parts of Gyeonggi Province. The questions were answered majorly through on site face-to-face interviews. The collected responses were double-checked and in case of any possible discrepancies, we verified on-site or over the phone.
Questionnaires: Demographic factors, health-related behaviors, acculturation and immigration-related factors, medical history, depression and quality of life
Diet: food and nutrient intake
Anthropometry and blood pressure: Height, weight, waist circumference, body fatness, skeletal muscle mass, and blood pressure
Bio specimen: Fasting blood samples, toenails, and DNA samples.