Inspiration Message of Secretary Enrique T. Ona during the Awarding and Induction Ceremony of the American College College of Chest Physicians (AACP), Philippine Chapter

August 28, 2010


Inspiration Message of Sec. Ona during the Awarding and Induction Ceremony of the American College of Chest Physicians (AACP)


Ballroom B, Crowne Plaza Galleria, Ortigas

 DR. LIZA LLANES-GARCIA, President, American College of Chest 
           Physicians (AACP)
           The Officers and Board Members of the AACP
           Our medical practitioners and experts in the care and prevention of chest 
           Other guests, ladies and gentlemen…

    Thank you very much for this invitation to be your Guest of Honor and Speaker during your induction ceremony. It was really not difficult to accept your invitation first, because I recognize that you, as chest physicians are a major stakeholder in the health sector… and second, I am optimistic that through our meeting, we can identify possible areas of cooperation between the AACP and the DOH to more strongly address the intensifying challenge of chest and lung diseases in the country.

    The year 2010 has been declared as the Year of the Lung and rightly so because lung diseases have already become important causes of morbidity and mortality all over the world.   Today, both rich and poor nations are at a crucial juncture in the fight against chest and lung diseases. The number of those who suffer and die from diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer continue to rise affecting millions and bringing an incredible economic and social toll to victims and their families. As such, the case has been made that lung diseases must become a major health priority. The fact remains, though, that the attention and resources devoted to lung disease has not been commensurate to the scale of the challenge.

    In the country, we face an enormous challenge and resource constraints in dealing with lung diseases. Pneumonia and influenza are among the top 5 causes of morbidity affecting mostly our children and the elderly while cancer of the lung is the 2nd leading cause of cancer mortality leading to disability and productive years of lives lost aside from the devastating consequence of coping with the huge medical expenses related with cancer.

    Thus, it is imperative that the Department of Health together with our health providers act more strongly not only in providing better care and treatment against lung diseases but also in increasing awareness among Filipinos so that our people can take early preventive action where it can be done.

    The Department of Health has had many gains in halting the spread of tuberculosis especially in the past decade.  In fact for the past five to six years, the Philippines had been the only high-burden country which showed consistently high rates of treatment success and case notification rates even going beyond the global target of 85%. We are on track in meeting the millennium development goal of halving the TB burden by 2015.

    Our success has much to do with building a strong network of TB partners, both from the public and private sectors, which enabled the more effective implementation of the TB-DOTS strategy.  This experience in forging alliance and cooperation with various stakeholders must be strengthened and replicated for other lung diseases so that we can mobilize more resources, scale-up the needed services and reach as many patients needing appropriate treatment and care.
    Broad-based partnerships must also be sought especially since the most important risk factors that lead to lung disease are at times too big and too difficult for government and the health sector to tackle alone. Reducing the burden of TB & pneumonia, for example, requires not only biomedical interventions but actions that are directed against the broader socioeconomic determinants of health such as improving housing, sanitation and nutrition. 

    Smoking, which today can be considered as the largest preventable health crisis that is linked to 35,000 deaths among Filipinos each year is a health challenge that is really multinational and multisectoral in scope. It is not only the largest single cause of preventable deaths dwarfing TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS combined but is also a significant cause of poverty.  In the Philippines, it is estimated that we cough out Php 300 billion ($6B) worth of healthcare costs from tobacco-related diseases (Tobacco & Poverty Study 2006). To stop its deadly course requires actions that must wield power over an industry that has large economic and political influence at the local and international levels. That is why government had to take a more aggressive stance in the fight against tobacco.  We ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005.  It is an international instrument that holds governments accountable in protecting the health of all citizens against the trans-border spread of tobacco smoke.  Government, civil society… you, our doctors and other health providers…and our people…all of us… have a collective stake in upholding this international commitment and in reducing the burden of tobacco-related deaths and illnesses. 

   In closing, I would like to congratulate the AACP for its contributions in improving health service delivery and the quality of care in the field of chest diseases in the country through your research and outreach activities.  I urge you to play a more active part in the programs and advocacies of the Department of Health concerning TB and other lung diseases which are important but still unrecognized contributors to our country’s total disease burden. The collaboration and free exchange of knowledge, expertise and ideas between the DOH and the AACP shall bring us to our common goals of saving lives and achieving better health for the Filipino people.

Thank you and Mabuhay!