BOURNEMOUTH, United Kingdom — The Philippines is in a state of transition from being a country that revolved around agriculture to a newly industrialized country heavily based on services and manufacturing. In alignment with improvements regarding health care accessibility, living conditions and the treatment and management of infectious diseases, the life expectancy for Filipinos has improved. However, an assembly of other issues is threatening the national health of the Philippines. Listed below are three ways that the Philippines is improving national health:
Through the Department of Health’s Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI), the country aims to immunize 95% of its infants against 11 diseases that are serious but easily preventable with vaccination. In 2016, 80% of this population had been immunized. The country is still pushing to reach the goal of 95% immunization to reach herd immunity where the spread of disease can be controlled. In 2022, a report published on immunization in the Philippines found various issues regarding immunization that, with intervention, could be solved and help the Philippines improve its national health.
Researchers found that children with mothers who had not had formal education were significantly more likely to miss vaccinations for their infants. In addition to this, the report also found that, within the immunization program, there was frequent change in leadership and management roles which hindered the delivery of the programs. The way forward is to increase the number of EPI managers and ensure the technical skills of these staff members are sufficient to carry out immunization operations effectively. The current push for immunization brings hope for the Philippines in improving national health.
Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS
The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS established the global target regarding HIV/AIDs prevention and control as 95-95-95. This means that by 2030, on a global scale, 95% of people with HIV/AIDs should know their status, 95% should have treatment and 95% should have reached viral load suppression. As of September 2022, the Philippines achieved 63%-65%-97%.
The Philippines has made great progress in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. The establishment of The Philippine HIV and AIDs Policy Act in 2018 ensured improved accessibility to health care services regarding HIV. Recent progress from this also includes an increase in community-based screening and self-testing. This will push the Philippines to reach the target that 95% of individuals who have HIV have a diagnosis.
While the positive movement is evident that the Philippines has made progress in improving national health in terms of the prevention and control of HIV, hindrances remain such as the stigma and politics surrounding HIV. To move in the right direction persistent community engagement and political intervention must continue.
Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NDCs)
Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are an increasing hindrance for the Philippines in improving national health; intervention must take place. Research shows that 68% of deaths in the Philippines are due to non-communicable diseases. Risk factors of these diseases must be taken into consideration when looking to improve these stats. Such risk factors include lifestyle choices such as the consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
In regards to tobacco, 40% of men and 12% of adolescents in the Philippines are regular smokers. This habit, which leads to diseases such as lung cancer and cardiovascular issues, is most common amongst lower-income populations due to cheap tobacco and generally less concern over long-term health. Between 2017 and 2022, the Philippines developed a national strategy to control the consumption of tobacco. The Tobacco Regulation Act has put restrictions on how much tobacco is advertised in most areas of the Philippines and, most recently, excise taxes have increased and will continue to increase by 4% each year. In addition to this, the Philippines have also established interventions to control the consumption of alcohol. These interventions include increased taxing of beverages, enforcing restricted availability of drinks, fewer advertisements and stricter laws for drunk driving.
The Philippines is eager to improve its national health. As the Philippines has introduced several interventions regarding immunization and prevention and control of diseases, the Philippines’ push toward a healthier country is well on the way.
– Poppy Harris