The event was to mark World Cancer Day.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona laid out the burden of cancer in the Philippines, which kills 7.3 million people worldwide annually.
He said it is estimated that one in five Filipinos will be afflicted with cancer during their lifetime. “With the population approaching 100 million, this translates to 20 million of our countrymen that will require cancer care,” he said.
The cost of cancer treatment is beyond the reach of most Filipinos, Ona said. Unfortunately, cancer does not choose its victims by financial status. It afflicts the rich and the poor.
He said,“For the near poor families and even those belonging to the middle class, the pursuit for cancer treatment either for cure, for palliation or for the improvement of the quality of life, leads to deaths and impoverishment.”
I couldn’t agree more being a cancer survivor myself.
The top causes of deaths in the Philippines, and in many other countries, are heart attacks, stroke and cancer, all non-communicable diseases.
Maybe it is a credit to medical advances or improvement in economic conditions in the country or improved health management that communicable diseases like tuberculosis are no longer the top killers of Filipinos.What is worrisome though, said Dr. Antony Leachon, internist cardiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital, is that more and more young people, in their 30’s and 40’s, who should be at their most productive age, are suffering from heart diseases, stroke and cancer.
Leachon, who serves as consultant of the Department of Health on Non-Communicable Diseases, said NCD’s are responsible for 63 percent of all deaths worldwide and this trend is evident in Southeast Asia and the Philippines due to globalization and urbanization.
NCD’s are not exclusive to the affluent elderly patients now but they are seen across all social classes and more dominantly in the young and poor populations. The culprits, he said, are “unhealthy dietary patterns such as high calorie intake from total fats (indigenous oils and coconut oil), high consumption of sugars and sweetened beverages and low consumption of the more expensive fruits and vegetables.
Leachon, who is a recipient of a Presidential Citation in June 2010 for authoring Executive Order 595 or the Health Education Reform Order (HERO), has recommendations that consider the government’s limited resources:
1. Transformative education of teachers and all students from the primary and secondary education to the collegiate levels on preventive health education focused on healthy diet options and increase in physical activity with tobacco cessation as top priorities.
2. Local government Unit heads will have to pass ordinances quickly to curb tobacco use, issue dietary guidelines and food labels, and build infrastructures like provision of pedestrian pathways so people can do physical activities.
3. Workplaces in private and public organizations should build a healthy environment eg. Smoke-free policies, healthy diet options, and facilities for physical activity.
4. The Food and Drug Administration with the help of technical experts from the private sector has to regulate the nutritional industry through implementation of Food label and calorie counter to restrict the use of high calorie foods, trans-fatty acids, sugar and salts.
5. Civil society, including coalitions of affected individuals and their families, medical organizations, and the media champions should play a major part in holding our leaders accountable for delivering on their commitments on Noncommunicable diseases.
Leachon is pushing for the passage Reform Sin tax Law which he said would help reduce the number of smokers among the young and the poor and reduce the consumption of cigarettes among the poor.
Leachon said it is important that our leaders set the example of healthy lifestyle because the people will only respond to what the leaders can give.