DOH wants tax on salty food products

Robie de Guzman   •   October 30, 2019   •   315

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)

More possible cases of polio being monitored in PH – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019

A Filipino baby receives a polio vaccine inside a government-run health center in Manila, Philippines, 08 October 2019 (issued 11 October 2019). EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) said it is monitoring more possible cases of polio in the country following recent cases of children who tested positive for poliovirus in Mindanao.

The DOH said there are still other cases awaiting confirmation from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they recorded more cases in the past months because the agency is actively conducting surveillance of suspected polio cases.

On Wednesday, Nov. 21, the DOH confirmed three new cases of polio in children under five years old from Mindanao, bringing to seven the total number of polio cases in the country this year.

In September, the department confirmed the re-emergence of the disease in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization.

The DOH said it is set to begin a new round of synchronized oral polio vaccine campaign for the whole of Mindanao, as well as in the National Capital Region (NCR) from Nov. 25 to Dec. 7 this year.

A polio immunization campaign will also be conducted in Mindanao from Jan. 6 to 18, 2020.

The department said the campaign’s “Patak Polio Corners” will be set up in selected McDonald’s stores in Metro Manila and in Mindanao after IT forged a partnership on Thursday, Nov. 21.

“We are relentless in making this health service accessible and available to all, consistent with our goal of Universal Health Care,” Duque said in a separate statement.

The Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio campaign aims to vaccinate all children below 5 years old regardless of Polio vaccination status, the DOH added.

According to the agency, the initial round of the synchronized polio vaccination reported 96% coverage among children 0 to 59 months old from the 17 cities/municipality in NCR.

Davao del Sur recorded 92% coverage from its 10 cities/municipalities while Lanao del Sur reported 85% coverage from 40 cities/municipalities.  

Phl records 3 more polio cases

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday confirmed that it has recorded three more cases of polio in the country.

The DOH said the three new cases were all from Mindanao – a 2-year old girl from Maguindanao, a 1-year old boy from Cotabato and a 4-year old girl from North Cotabato.

The three patients were admitted to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center.

The DOH said samples from the three cases were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan.

The results of the test came out positive for poliovirus.

Two of the patients were not vaccinated for polio, while the other one received incomplete doses, the department added.

With the confirmation of three new cases, the total number of polio cases in the country this year has climbed to seven.

“It is unacceptable that more children are falling victim to this vaccine-preventable disease. We are more determined than ever to make sure that no child shall be missed during the next round of the Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio in Metro Manila and Mindanao,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.

“We should not be satisfied with our children receiving only 1 or 2 doses of the polio vaccine. Let us ensure that they receive the complete doses of the vaccine to fully protect them from Polio,” he added.

The Health chief also renewed its call to parents and caregivers to have their children immunized to protect them against polio and other diseases.

“We are reiterating to all parents and caregivers to have their 0-59 months children immunized with the polio vaccine from November 25 to December 7,” he said.

The DOH previously conducted a series of vaccination against polio in Metro Manila, Davao del Sur, and Lanao del Sur.

In September, the department confirmed the re-emergence of the disease in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization.

Hontiveros urges DOH to name pharma firms blocking move for cheaper medicines

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros urges the Department of Health (DOH) to identify the pharmaceutical firms that are reportedly blocking the move to lower the price of medicines.

“Nanawagan ako sa DOH na pangalanan ang mga pharmaceutical companies na mas inuuna pa ang kanilang malalaking tubo at kita kaysa sa buhay at kalusugan ng mamamayan. Sa panahon na kaliwa’t kanan ang epidemiya at mga nagkakasakit, ang presyo ng gamot ay hindi dapat dagdag-pasakit,” Hontiveros said during the Senate plenary deliberation of DOH’s budget for 2020 on Tuesday night.

She said there is reportedly a strong lobby from several pharmaceutical companies opposing the proposed use of government’s regulatory powers under the Republic Act 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Act to lower the “unfair and anti-poor” prices of much-needed medicines nationwide.

The DOH earlier listed around 120 high-cost medicines that will be recommended for price reduction under a maximum drug retail price (MDRP) scheme.

These medicines particularly treat leading diseases and conditions including diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and different types of cancers.

“While I welcome the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to work towards improving the country’s healthcare system, I would like to remind them that it is the exorbitant prices of medicines charged in both public and private sectors which have undermined the effective delivery of health services, to the detriment of poor and even middle-class families,” Hontiveros said.

She also maintained that prices of medicines in the Philippines “remain high,” and “out of reach” of the majority of Filipinos.

Hontiveros cited a study commissioned by the DOH which states that the medicine prices in the country are still significantly higher than the international reference prices.

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