2011 has just come to an end. After all the get-togethers, excessive food, inconspicuous consumption of cigarettes and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, and other sorts of celebrations during the holiday season, what better way to start 2012 than by investing on our population’s health?
According to a study conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), as cited in a Health Promotion forum last September, 90% of all Filipinos have one or more common risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These risk factors include tobacco use, obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar, and abnormal blood cholesterol levels.
FNRI reported in 2010 that there has been an alarming hike in the prevalence of these factors from 1998 to 2008 such that hypertension increased from 21% to 25.3%, diabetes increased from 3.9% to 4.8%, overweight adults increased from 20.2% to 26.6%, and people with high blood cholesterol levels increased from 4% to 10.2%.
The high cost of care for these NCDs is pushing our country deeper into poverty and illness. If these trends continue, 72% of all deaths by 2020 will be caused by NCDs.
Indeed, now is the time to promote health and save lives.
The emergence of these risk factors can be prevented by health promotion strategies such as employing programs which will develop the population’s physical strength, firm mental conditions, and long, quality lives. These programs may include, but are not limited to, tobacco control, road safety, rightful consumption of foods, alcohol control, and physical activities for all ages.
“Health promotion is not the same as health education. Health promotion requires enabling the population to apply knowledge through concrete actions. This means changing the social, political and cultural environment and providing resources for communities to be actively involved in their own health”, explained by Dr Susan Mercado, WHO Team Leader for the Tobacco Free Initiative.
Similarly, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said, “we need to empower people to be responsible for their own health. We need to educate them about the potential harm that unhealthy lifestyles would bring. This is essentially what health promotion is all about.”1
After all, spending to keep the population healthy is more cost-efficient than treating the sick.