DOH signs IRR of Universal Health Care Law

Freema Gloria   •   October 10, 2019   •   291

Patients receive medical attention inside a hospital in the town of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province. EPA-EFE/JEOFFREY MAITEM

The Department of Health (DOH) has signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Universal Health Care Law.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III led the signing of the IRR of the UHC law or the Republic Act 11223 which was witnessed by various health sectors.

The said historical event marks the implementation of the UHC law following its publication.

Under the Universal Health Care law, all Filipinos will be automatic members of Philhealth as direct or indirect contributors and will equally benefit from the no balance billing (NBB) once they have been admitted to the hospitals’ basic or ward accommodation.

Secretary Duque stated, the implementation of the said law will be gradual due to budget constraints.

At least P257 billion will be the required fund for its first-year implementation, yet only P167 billion has been approved.

By the year 2020 to 2024, the department will be needing more than P1- trillion fund for the operation of universal health care.

Duque added that the Philhealth premium rates will increase by 0.25% per year from its current 2.75%.

Philhealth, on its part, will consider giving new benefits for those who are paying their contributions which will be different from the beneficiaries of the Universal Health Care Act. — FSG (from the report of Nel Maribojoc)

DOH wants tax on salty food products

Robie de Guzman   •   October 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing to propose imposing additional taxes on salty food products in a bid to lower the high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.

High consumption of salt is one of the causes of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, stroke and chronic respiratory illnesses. Excessive salt intake is also related to hypertension, kidney diseases and cardiovascular problems, according to the DOH.

DOH spokesperson and Undersecretary Eric Domingo noted that the recommended salt intake per day for adult Filipinos is just under a teaspoon or around two grams.

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier said that the recommended salt intake per day should be less than five grams.

“Ang cause ng hypertension sa atin, maliban sa paninigarilyo, ay pagkain ng maalat. Dapat po isang tao, 2 grams lang per day, tayo po ang konsyumo natin 11-15 grams per day, so tayo ay 4-5 times sa mga Filipino,” Domingo said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

High sodium intake raises blood pressure that leads to stroke and heart diseases, the two biggest causes of death and disability worldwide, according to the WHO.

In the Philippines, the DOH reported that more than 170,000 individuals die each year from heart diseases, specifically hypertension.

To curb the high incidence of these diseases and to help encourage people to eat healthy foods, the DOH is pushing for the imposition of additional taxes on products with too much salt.

Domingo cited the experience of several countries that imposed tax on unhealthy food which forced companies to adjust their product formulation.

“And it has been found in many countries that when you tax products that are unhealthy, talagang nagde-decrease kasi ang intake and the companies reformulate yung kanilang product,” he said.

The government has implemented tax on sugary drinks as well as on tobacco products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DOH pushes for total ban on e-cigarettes

Robie de Guzman   •   October 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday called for a total ban on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), stressing that it has no proven positive effect on the user’s health.

According to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the use of e-cigarettes or vaping is not a proven replacement therapy for nicotine addiction.

“If the DOH had its way, we would go for an outright ban,” Domingo told reporters in a press briefing in Malacañang.

He also noted that a proposal is now being crafted in an aim to ban e-cigarettes and other similar devices.

“And I think there is possible legal legislation that will be proposed sa Senate and the House, and we will support it,” he said.

Domingo said there are more than one million Filipinos, mostly youth, using e-cigarettes in the country.

The health official said they are now monitoring case reports of injuries and illnesses documented arising from the use of these devices amid a rising number of such cases in other countries.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration earlier advised hospitals under the DOH to report any vaping-related cases in line with the emerging report of such cases from Europe and North America as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (USCDC).

The USCDC in August issued an advisory, cautioning the public against the purchase and use of vaping ingredients from the street and to stop modifying either nicotine or cannabis e-cigarette in an effort to curb the reportedly rising cases of vaping-related sicknesses in 25 U.S. states.

“Based on reports from several states, patients have experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain), and some have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) or non-specific constitutional symptoms (fatigue, fever, or weight loss). Symptoms typically develop over a period of days but sometimes can manifest over several weeks,” the advisory read.

The USCDC has recommended some steps for clinicians, including the reporting of cases of severe pulmonary disease of unclear etiology and history of e-cigarette use within the past 90 days, to help determine the cause of these sicknesses.

READ: WHO: Tobacco kills 8 million each year, e-cigarettes not a proven alternative

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier said the use of e-cigarettes should be regulated as there is no evidence proving they were a safer alternative to cigarettes, warning that it normalizes smoking and hooks young people. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DOH issues safety tips for the long weekend

Maris Federez   •   October 29, 2019

People visit the graves of their departed loved ones at a public cemetery in Manila, Philippines, 01 November 2018. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

The Department of Health (DOH) has issued some safety tips in going to memorial parks for the long weekend holiday.

The DOH said it is wise to bring own bottled water and food when going to memorial parks to ensure that they are clean and to avoid acquiring food-borne diseases from street foods.

The health department also reminded the public to be sure that the water they bring is enough to avoid dehydration.

It also said it is prudent to bring an umbrella to be shielded from the blazing sun or the pouring rain.

As healthcare, the DOH advised wearing masks when one has a cough or cold so as not to contaminate others.

The health department is also discouraging parents from bringing their children to crowded places so they can shield their children from diseases.

It added that it is better to have someone who can alternately look after the children in the safety of their homes.

Same tip applies in caring for the elderly, especially those who have heart problems or with hypertension.

Hospitals are also on standby for code white alert of personnel and staff. (from the report of Aiko Miguel) /mbmf

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