WHO: One in three Filipinos die prematurely due to noncommunicable diseases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 18) — One in every three Filipinos will not reach the age of 70 because of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), according to health experts from the United Nations (UN).

They said Filipinos are likely to die from these four groups of NCDs: cardiovascular diseases such as stroke or heart attack, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases such as emphysema.

"Noncommunicable diseases not only threatens an individual's health, they also jeopardize the social fabric and economic development of the Philippines," said Ola Almgren, UN Philippines Resident Coordinator.

The warning came out of a weeklong mission by specialists from the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs and the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat. They were invited by the Health Department to help set up mechanisms to prevent and control NCDs.

The mission conducted several dialogues on May 7-11 to identify concrete steps that can be taken by different government sectors, civil society and the resident UN country team to tackle NCDs in the Philippines.

Challenges

The UN experts noticed that there are gaps in implementing national policy at the local level and getting every sector to respond to the threat of noncommunicable diseases. They said that there must be a coordinated action by many sectors such as finance, trade and industry, budget and management, "parliamentarians", justice, education, labor, agriculture, and local government.

The mission members also noted that the current investments on NCDs are still focused on treatment. They recommend that the government also spend on campaigns about prevention and health promotion.

"International experience shows that investments in the prevention of NCDs are among the most effective public health investments, providing return of USD5 - 94  to each dollar allocated to measures to reduce tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and increase physical inactivity," the report said.

Progress

"The NCD crisis is a perfect storm that threatens to undermine all the progress we have made in recent years and the dreams of all Filipino families for our country," said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The U.N. experts acknowledged government's initiatives to lower the burden of NCDs in the Philippines. These include the taxation of sugar sweetened beverages, one of the first countries in Asia to introduce this measure, and tobacco control measures such as graphic health warnings and the increase in taxes from the Sin Tax law.

Health advocates however said in December that the ₱2.50 tobacco tax rate under the recently-signed tax reform law would not be enough to either deter people from smoking or provide funds to patients who would benefit from free healthcare services.

READ: Health groups to lawmakers: Raise tobacco tax to fund health care program

Under the plan, a pack of cigarettes will cost ₱32.50 from until June 2018, ₱35 until December 2019, ₱37.50 until 2021, and ₱40 until 2023, with an increase in tax of four percent annually from 2023 onwards.