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Special Features

Lifestyle ailments kill 3 of 5 Filipinos yearly, say doctors

The MMDA has imposed a smoking ban in Metro Manila.
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- His call time is at 8 p.m. He and his band then play three sets starting at 10 p.m. and ending at 1 in the morning, after which they stay for a while waiting for their fee. By 4 a.m., he is home and ready to sleep the whole day.

This was the how the life of Marky (not his real name), 28, a musician, used to be. However, since suffering a mild stroke last year, he has had to cut on the gigs he accepts.

Marky admits the unhealthy lifestyle that accompanied his profession was one of the factors for his cardiovascular disease. “Siyempre sa mga gigs, exposed ka sa usok, minsan mapapainom ka pa, tapos siyempre ‘yung food na sine-serve sa band madalas pork chop, fried chicken, tapos ‘yung sleeping patterns mo abnormal (Of course during gigs, you’re exposed to smoke, sometimes you drink, then the food served the band often was pork chops, fired chicken, and then there were the abnormal sleeping patterns),” he said.

Dr. Tony Leachon, treasurer of the Philippine College of Physicians, said the lifestyle led by Marky and many young people is a main contributor to the rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases in the country.

Interviewed on the sidelines of the launch of a campaign against non-communicable diseases, Leachon said 63 percent of the population has experienced heart attacks, strokes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and diabetes, mostly acquired from an unhealthy lifestyle.

“For every five Filipinos, three die yearly from NDC; or we could put (it this way), for every 500,000 deaths, 300,000 Filipinos die from NDC” Leachon said. Dr. Cherian Verghese, World Health Organization technical officer for NDCs, blamed the rise in the incidence of NDCs on increasing major risk behaviors among Filipinos such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity and excessive alcohol consumption. The campaign launched on Friday aims to address the major risk factors from tobacco use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

"We cannot anymore sit down and watch this epidemic unfold in our midst. We will promote learning among the people, move local governments into action and advocate for effective legislation on curbing the smoking epidemic, and promoting healthy diet and physical
activity," Leachon said.

The campaign hopes to tap the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, local government units and Congress. “Congress can expect us to be more active in legislative advocacy to urge our legislators to pass the sin tax reform law of the Aquino administration that will effectively discourage smoking among the young and the poor and save them from contracting the deadly tobacco-related diseases,” Leachon said. He said the DepEd and CHEd will be asked to include awareness of NCDs and a healthy lifestyle campaign in school curriculums.

PCP president Dr. Norbert Uy said they also intend to raise public awareness through media. LGUs, he said, should create a “health-seeking environment” through smoke-free communities and promote daily exercise by providing venues for this. Dr. Gina Nazareth, coordinator of PCP’s advocacy committee, said they will urge doctors to start issuing “healthy lifestyle prescription” that emphasize the need for patients to stop smoking, keep healthy diets and exercise regularly.

But Varghese said a comprehensive approach is needed that requires all sectors, including health, finance, foreign affairs, education, agriculture, planning and other agencies, to work together to reduce the risks associated with NCDs and promote the interventions to prevent and control these.

Government, he said, should initiate reforms such as decreasing taxes on healthy foods like vegetables while increasing those on “bad” food; banning tobacco or alcohol advertisements in public places; imposing smoking bans; and raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol. A proposed “sin tax reform” by Malacañang could generate P60 billion for the government, an amount, Leachon said, could be added to the P40-billion allocation for universal healthcare. It could be used to partly offset the P400 billion he said the Department of Health spends on smoking-related hospitalization.

Breadwinners Although there is no exact data, WHO Western Pacific director Dr. Shin Young-soon said breadwinners account for the largest number of deaths from NCDs since they are at risk from stress-related heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease and diabetes and are most exposed to unhealthy lifestyles.

Verghese said that 67.6 percent of deaths among people aged 60 to 70 -- most of whom led productive lives in their 40s -- are due to NCDs. “They are the one who are contributing for the society. They have plenty of socio-economic responsibilities. Their families depend on them,” Vergehese said. However, he said people from all age groups, even children, are also at risk from NCDs. In fact, WHO records show that more than 9 million of all deathsattributed to NCDs occur before the age of 60 and, among these “premature” deaths, 90 percent occur in low-and-middle-income countries.

In the Western Pacific region, 30,000 people die from NDCs every day, accounting for 80 percent of all deaths.