Other ASEAN citizens live longer than Filipinos

Sofia Tomacruz
Other ASEAN citizens live longer than Filipinos
Despite investments in health care, Filipinos’ health is below average in terms of average life expectancy, maternal mortality ratio, mortality rate for children under 5 years old, and tuberculosis

ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – How does Filipinos’ health compare with that of citizens in other ASEAN countries?

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday, September 25, that Filipinos’ health is below average when it comes to key indicators, such as:

  • Average life expectancy
  • Maternal mortality ratio
  • Mortality rate for children under 5 years old
  • Tuberculosis 

DOH Undersecretary Mario Villaverde, speaking at a conference of health journalists in Vigan City, said that among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines ranked 7th in average life expectancy, besting only Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos.

Villaverde said this means that, on average, citizens of other ASEAN countries lived longer than most Filipinos. 

When it comes to maternal mortality ratio, or how often mothers die during childbirth, the Philippines ranked 6th. According to Villaverde, high infant-child-maternity mortality was also more pronounced among the poor.

Meanwhile, the country ranked 7th in the number of children 5 years and younger that died due to health reasons.

Villavarde said 1 out of 3 children was also stunted while only 60% of children received basic immunization – the lowest coverage in 25 years, based on the 2013 National Health Survey.

The country also had the most number of tuberculosis cases in the region, coming in 10th among all ASEAN countries.

According to Villaverde, one factor that may have contributed to the increased number of tuberculosis cases in the Philippines was the adoption of a new technique to detect the illness called “Gene Xpert” yet to be used in other ASEAN countries.

“We are one of the few countries that were early adopters of the new technique to detect tuberculosis. Because there is now a very much improved tool or system…we have detected cases of tuberculosis compared to the previous method of detection,” he said in the DOH forum,

Tuberculosis is an illness that is spread through the air and often affects the lungs. When people with the illness cough, sneeze or spit, germs are spread and may affect others. According to the World Health Organization, one “need inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.”

Doubled health expenditure

The health ranking of the Philippines alongside ASEAN countries comes despite an increase in budget and spending for health care in the last few years.

Data showed health expenditure almost doubled from P381 billion in 2010 to P655 billion in 2016. 

Villaverde also said this was brought about by the lack of access to adequate health care and poor connectedness among health service providers, such as barangay health stations, hospitals, and specialty centers.

Part of the challenge, he said, was also addressing unequal health care and services among regions and provinces. 

He added, “We hope in the next 5 years our health outcomes will also adjust with the investment.” – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.