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More than P750B lost in PHL economy every year due to non-communicable diseases —WHO

A report on Tuesday revealed that the Philippine economy is losing P756.5 billion every year due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

It is 4.8% of the annual gross domestic product,  the Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Interagency Task Force (UNIATF) on the Prevention and Control of NCDs said in a joint news release on Tuesday.

The lost amount includes direct costs of NCDs like treatment and the indirect ‘hidden’ costs from reduced productivity and premature death of workers.

NCDs, which include diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and chronic respiratory diseases, are linked to 68% of all deaths in the Philippines.

They said unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and irresponsible drinking largely caused premature deaths from NCDs.

In the Philippines, 40% of men and 12% of 13-15-year-old school-based adolescents are smoking. Among alcohol users, 48% of men and 17% of women ‘binged’ during the month before the survey.

Based on a 2015 survey, 43% of adults were not sufficiently physically active, with women at higher risk of physical inactivity than men.

It was also revealed that Filipinos’ average daily salt intake is more than double the WHO’s recommendation.

These lifestyle choices increase the risk of multiple forms of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and other health complications.

According to the agencies, investing in the prevention and control of NCDs could prevent the premature deaths of over 350,000 people and contribute to economic growth over the next 15 years.

NCD investment case for the Philippines

The DOH, WHO, UNDP estimated the economic burden of NCDs and the costs of different policy interventions using national data. They calculated returns on investment to determine possible economic gains of different cost-effective measures to reduce risk factors associated with NCDs.

They learned that investing in cost-effective interventions or ‘Best Buys,’ targeting tobacco use, alcohol misuse, excessive salt consumption, and physical inactivity can improve the economy and population health.

With these interventions, around P377.7 billion of return on investment is expected over the next 15 years while the cost of implementation is much less, the agencies noted. Investing in ‘Best Buys’ will also reduce the premature deaths of 350,000 people over the next 15 years, they added.

The salt reduction package projects a return on investment of around P5 billion over the next 15 years.

This package includes policy interventions such as combating misleading marketing, front-of-package labeling on food and salt reduction in community eating spaces.  It is estimated that this intervention will save 164,251 lives during a 15-year period.

The physical activity package, meanwhile, can save 58,397 lives, followed by the tobacco control package saving 71,130 lives and the alcohol control package saving 57,872 lives.

Also, the report checked the costs and benefits of a set of clinical interventions such as screening, treatment and preventative care for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

This intervention package would cost PHP 530.7 billion over the next 15 years, but would produce a return on investment of 0.1 per Philippine peso invested. These clinical interventions would avert 43,327 deaths over the next 15 years, the agencies claimed.

The NCD investment case for the Philippines was developed under the UNDP-WHO Joint Global Programme on NCD Governance, with the financial support from the Government of the Russian Federation.

Acting WHO Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that the heath and economic cost of NCDs is a reminder of the need do more in preventing and controlling these diseases.

“Major progress on prevention and control of NCDs is within reach, but we need to act now and we must involve all sectors including health, education, finance, planning, environment and sports.”

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that investment in the prevention and control of NCDs aligns with the objectives of our Universal Health Care Law, “as we are shifting our focus from treatment to primary care and health promotion programs.”

“Our country’s efforts on tobacco control and sin taxes will jumpstart our NCD prevention and control strategies,” Duque added. —LDF, GMA News