Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga
HEALTH advocates on Sunday urged President Aquino to put premium on the people’s health by investing in preventive health care through increased budget allocation.
The proposed allocation for the Department of Health had the highest budgetary increase at P56.8 billion in line with Mr. Aquino’s goal of improved health-care services.
These include universal health-care coverage for all Filipinos, the improvement of government hospitals, as well as the construction of new rural health facilities.
While such budget increase is a welcome development for the health-care system, a progressive program will not be possible without investing in preventive health care, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.
Investing in preventive health-care programs like the Health Promotion (HP) will minimize the chances for the spread of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease.
“It is alarming that 90 percent of the Philippine population has at least one risk factor that led to NCDs. These are diseases of long duration and generally slow progression,” Cabral said.
She added that studies show that six out of 10 deaths in the Philippines are attributed to NCDs, and 25 percent of all NCD-related deaths are from people below the age of 60.
World Health Organization (WHO) studies show that among the Western Pacific countries, 91 percent of the health fund is spent on curative care, 8 percent on the prevention of illness and only 1 percent on health promotion. Like countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region, HP in the Philippines remains underfunded.
For her part, Princess Nemenzo of WomanHealth said a comprehensive health-promotion approach is necessary to protect health and prevent the onset of risky behaviors and lessen NCDs.
“Insufficient funding severely restricts the strategies in support of HP, such as research, policy advocacy and community mobilization,” she said.
WomanHealth noted that in Southeast Asia, other countries have already invested in preventative health care to lower their smoking prevalence.
The Philippines is lagging behind. Vietnam and Lao have allocated a percentage of their tobacco taxes for tobacco control. Thailand has decreased tobacco consumption by 10 percent over six years, thanks to its investment in HP, the group said.
“By allotting a percentage of the excise tax revenue for HP, Thailand was able to fund various programs that improved their overall national health,” Ulysses Dorotheo, project director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance Initiative on Tobacco Tax, said.
“While we have recently increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol, the Philippines overlooked an opportunity when we neglected to allocate part of the sin tax revenue for preventative health care, in order to continue to bring down smoking prevalence and other risk factors for NCDs,” Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice Philippines added.