MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 2, 2014) - National Academy of Science and Technology Academician Antonio Miguel Dans said no amount of health education or counseling can make people change their lifestyles to prevent non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and dementia and he has proposed making changes in the environment in order to make a person change his lifestyle and health status.
NAST is an advisory body of the Department of Science and Technology.
“We eat unhealthy because unhealthy food is cheaper. For a cheaper price, you can get a burger while salads are more expensive. We don’t exercise because there is no place to exercise. If you jog (on the street)… you’ll die – you’ll get run over by cars, you’ll get cancer,” Dans, a cardiologist and University of the Philippines College of Medicine professor, said during a NAST-sponsored round table discussion recently.
Fun Runs, on the other hand, are good but when the running event is finished, there is nothing where people can run safely, comfortably, and regularly for the rest of the year. “Go to UP. You’ll see how people are thirsty to exercise. They just don’t have a place to do it,” he emphasized.
Dans said instituting environmental changes, such as imposing sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, is one strategy outside healthcare which can lead to a healthier population.
The enactment of the Sin Tax Bill in December 2012 led to a 6 percent reduction in the Philippines’ smoking population. Specifically, the number of smokers among the 10-19 age bracket dropped by 25 percent, and those in the 70 and above age group had a 34 percent drop. The number of smokers among the poor likewise decreased considerably.
“We are contemplating (on proposing) sin tax on sugar and salt, hoping that it will be as effective as that on tobacco,” Dans said.
Other environmental changes suggested by Dans include the banning of unhealthy foods and creating more P.E. activities in schools, building gym facilities and stand desks in workplaces, and creating more bike lanes, parks and sidewalks with “walkability” qualities such as cleanliness, adequate lighting, and safety.
“We’re not saying that it (health education) does not work,” said Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, executive director of DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development during the open forum. “But maybe … we should determine the tipping point. Is it legislation? Or maybe it is in community initiatives,” he said.
Cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, renal disease, osteoarthritis, asthma, cataracts, osteoporosis, and diabetes are among the range of non-communicable diseases which caused 34.5 million deaths out of a total 52 million deaths in 2010.
Unhealthy lifestyles as well as aging, an issue that is becoming more difficult to manage, are among the factors leading to the onset of non-communicable diseases which are long-term and costly.