Manila, Philippines, September 7: “Most often than not, the difference between an early death and a longer life is a strong health promotion mechanism. Without it, disease becomes a vicious cycle. Preventable deaths prevail,” said Dr. Prakit Vathesatogkit, Secretary General to the International Network for Health Promotion Foundation and a world-leading expert in health promotion (HP) programs.
Vathesatogkit was recently in the country to support local health advocatesʼ call to establish an expanded and independent HP mechanism, a move that aims to counter the alarming costs of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among Filipinos.
NCDs in Southeast Asia is now an epidemic, accounting for 60% of deaths in the region. “The problem with NCDs is not only the rising level of deaths, 30% of those who die are below 60 years old. It greatly hinders the development of the country. It is not only for the wellbeing of the people, but for economic purposes as well. The government has a responsibility to end this deplorable reality and set an environment that endorses healthy options,” says Vathesatogkit.
He continues, “We have already seen the benefits of Health Promotion, 5 out of 10 ASEAN countries already have some mechanism established. Both Thailand and Singapore began their programs in 2001. Malaysia founded their Health Promotion Board in 2006. And very recently, Vietnam and Laos have passed legislation to set aside funding for health promotion. In the case of Thailand, the health promotion fund was establish as a package to supplement the universal health coverage policy. Its aim is to decrease burden on the universal health coverage program through improving health by preventing sickness. Its time for the Philippines to follow suit.”
“The need for a health promotion mechanism is no longer an option but an obligation of the government to save its highly vulnerable populace. There is no other way to prevent the rising cases of NCDs” he added.
The most common cause of NCDs is smoking.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that tobacco taxes should be increased so that it accounts for at least 70 % of retail prices.
“Doing so will not only help smokers quit, it will also ensure that children will not be able to afford it. In Thailand, ThaiHealth is a statutory health organization funded by 2% surcharge tax on alcohol and tobacco products. Revenue provides a budget of USD 110 million. This fund is being used for alcohol and tobacco control, to reduce traffic accidents, to improve physical activity, and promote a healthy diet,” Vathesatogkit explained.
Another study by the WHO shows that NCDs will be responsible for 72% of deaths by the year 2020 unless properly addressed.
“Itʼs not enough to inform people what they can do to live healthier lives. Government must enable them to do so. Health promotion is beyond information campaign. Itʼs adopting health policies and itʼs an investment on public health,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, managing director for HealthJustice.
An awardee of the prestigious Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control, HealthJustice penned Taxing Health Risks in 2010, a policy paper on tobacco excise tax and health promotion. ###