On world cancer day: Docs target top killer diseases

MANILA, Philippines - The majority of Filipinos don't die because of natural disasters or old age.

According to the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), 60% of Filipinos die from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), meaning non-infectious diseases, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

On Feb 3, 2012, in time for World Cancer Day, 40 doctors from PCP painted a target on the back of the leading killers of Filipinos. This marked the launch of an NCD advocacy campaign. 

The PCP campaign targets a 2% annual decrease in the incidence of NCDs among Filipinos. The bullseye is the World Health Organization's target of a 25% cut in NCD rates worldwide by 2025. 

"Doctors cannot any more sit down and watch this epidemic unfold in their midst," said PCP treasurer, Dr Tony Leachon.

Target: ignorance

The campaign will go after 3 common risk factors for NCDS, -- tobacco use, poor diet, and lack of exercise. The group intends to push the campaign with what it calls the three L's -- learning, LGU-based action, and legislation. 

Dr Norbert Lingling Uy, the organization's president, said, "We attack ignorance and we attack ineptitude." 

Leachon said he had spoken with Education Secretary Armin Luistro about placing more emphasis on a health education curriculum in schools, putting more healthy food in the canteen or cafeteria, and possibly including a daily exercise class. 

Drowning, they discovered, is ironically the leading cause of death for Filipino children. 

Leachon said solutions have to be tailored to local realities, adding that he expects the PCP officers who came to attend the launch from across the country to bring their "marching orders" home with them.

Sin taxes

The campaign also supports reforming sin taxes, the taxes on liquor and tobacco, which currently favor local producers. President Benigno Aquino III is supporting the imposition of sin taxes, which may be needed to help raise fresh revenues.

These are needed especially since the government vowed there would be no new taxes even as it promised more infrastructure spending this year and universal health coverage in the future.

PCP seems confident about the campaign because it is designed to work in tandem with government efforts. Following consultations with the Department of Health (DOH), Leachon expects the DOH to launch its campaign against NCDs by the end of February or the beginning of March. 

Dr Maricar Limpin, chair of the advocacy committee for PCP, explained that the two campaigns were designed to piggyback off each other. She said, "DOH has a very limited budget and we have a minuscule one so we have to combine our efforts."

Limpin said the PCP launch was strategically planned so their doctors could spread the campaign messages in their provinces in the month leading up to the government's own campaign launch.

February 3 was chosen for its proximity to World Cancer Day today, February 4. "Ideally," she said, "every day we should have a world cancer day, an NCD day." - Rappler.com

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