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Keynote Speech of Secretary Enrique T. Ona, MD - 2nd Outstanding Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy Awards

February 29, 2012

Landbank Plaza, Malate Manila

Good evening! 

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the NCD coalition, its current chair, the Philippine Association of Diabetes Educators, and its 40 member organizations for successfully holding this Second Outstanding Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy Awards. I am very grateful to be among you all tonight as we honor our partners in the local government, civil society, and in the private sector whose work contributed greatly in our fight against non-communicable diseases which has now become a global menace.   Indeed, the Department of Health is very lucky to have partners who work so hard to promote healthy lifestyles among our countrymen. Our fight against NCDs will be long and arduous and we will definitely need all the help of our partners.   

Perhaps, we are all aware of the increasing significance of the burden of NCDs and lifestyle diseases. Worldwide, it has replaced communicable diseases as the leading cause of mortality. The international community has now recognized this problem and has started taking bolder steps in fighting this menace. 

In the Philippines, we all know that cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, strokes, and cancers are the leading causes of deaths. By all indications, NCDs do not discriminate between rich and poor. While NCDs burden all sectors society, these diseases devastate and impoverish our poorest countrymen even more.  Because when the time comes to seek treatment, more often than not, quality health care is often out of reach. 

Through our agenda of Kalusugan Pangkalahatan, we seek to improve access to quality health care for all Filipinos, particularly for the poorest Filipino families, most of whom do not have access to health workers. The key element of this agenda is to have all Filipinos covered by PhilHealth. By doing this, each family is given the means to access to quality health care - be it for non-communicable or communicable diseases - right when they need it. This past year we have enrolled 5.2 million poorest Filipino families in PhilHealth. Our goal is to enroll all families by 2013. 

More than enrolment, we are changing the way PhilHealth operates. We are streamlining processes through IT so more and more people can access its benefits. Likewise, we are constantly working to give our countrymen better benefits. Just last year, we rolled out the Case Rate scheme and the No-Balance Billing policy in government hospitals. This year we are looking at instituting the Catastrophic Care Package for some illnesses - mostly NCDs such as strokes, heart attacks, and cancers - that entail a higher cost of care. 

Efforts in improving PhilHealth are being undertaken side-by-side with efforts to upgrade health facilities and hospitals all over the country. This includes primary care facilities up to tertiary hospitals. We are improving their infrastructure and providing them with better equipment so they can better serve our people. More than that, we worked to ensure that competent health workers are available in these health facilities. And we did that through our Doctors to the Barrios and RN Heals Programs where 113 doctors and over 21,000 nurses were deployed to various underserved communities across the country. 

Besides health personnel, we have also provided medicine to the most in-need areas through our Complete Treatment Packages for diseases such as hypertension and diabetes which have been distributed to 1,000 RHUs and can be availed of for free by members. These serve as treatment for NCDs, but of course, we would all much prefer to prevent these diseases through healthy lifestyles, rather than treat them. After all, this is the most cost effective way in fighting NCDs. 

While we believe that our efforts to improve PhilHealth and upgrade our hospitals and health facilities will go a long way in relieving the burden of families afflicted with NCDs, we are very much aware that this will not be enough. The cost of treating NCDs is so enormous that we cannot imagine treating all of it successfully at the time when complications set in. We need to work hard to prevent NCDs. To do this we have to advocate to our countrymen to pursue healthy lifestyles which entails a lot of badgering on our part. 

As I’ve said, I don’t think we have been remiss in advocating for health lifestyles. We have time and again urged everyone to stop smoking, to engage in regular exercise, and to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.  We have had several activities to remind everyone about this. We even organized an event where our very popular President promoted the value of exercise.  Sa tingin ko, nagiging makulit na kami pero hinding hindi kami magsasawa sa pag-papaalala at pangungulit sa inyo ang pag propromote ng healthy lifestyles.We have more activities lined up these coming months. As a matter of fact, our Community Health Teams include the advocacy of healthy lifestyles when they do the rounds of the homes in their area. 

But advocating healthy lifestyles does not only mean badgering and organizing PR activities, it also entails putting in place policies that will be conducive for the pursuit of healthy lifestyles among our countrymen. One such policy that comes to mind is the sin tax reform bill which we are pushing for. Raising taxes for sin products will make out countrymen especially the youth think twice or thrice before engaging in such habits. The DOH heavily supports this and we call on our legislators to pass this bill immediately.

 Tonight, we recognize the efforts of our partners who have in their own ways, significant contributed in the formulation of policies and programs that promote healthy lifestyle and caused its effective implementation.  At this point, I would like to acknowledge all our 28 nominees and our 8 finalists who are here with us tonight. Let us give all of them a big round of applause. (Applause)

While only 5 winners will be chosen from our finalists, I would say that all of you are winners in your own right. The work you have done has contributed in saving lives and promoting health is victory in itself. Your efforts are truly appreciated. This is your night. May you serve an inspiration for all us to persevere in the noble pursuit of advocating healthy lifestyles for our people. 

With that, I thank you all and bid you a pleasant evening.