MANILA, Philippines – To combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Philippines, the health department has established the Hypertension and Diabetes Club where patients can avail themselves of free maintenance medicines.
"The current dilemma in addressing NCDs in the Philippines is that patients usually seek treatment in hospitals when they are already sick or already in long-term complications," Health Secretary Janette Garin said in a statement.
"In order to fight NCDs, it is important to practice healthy lifestyle choices early. Also, early detection and care using cost-effective and sustainable health care interventions that are integrated in primary health care facilities are essential," she added.
To join the Hypertension and Diabetes Club, patients must go to the nearest health center or primary health care facility and undergo assessment, screening, and management through the Philippine Package of Essential NCD Intervention protocol.
Once diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes, or both, the patient will be enrolled in the club, where he or she can access the following medicines:
The member can also join activities that promote healthy lifestyle to control blood pressure and blood sugar, and prevent complications of the diseases.
The Department of Health said it is also implementing an expansive PhilHealth coverage and utilization, and upgrading health facilities all over the country – interventions that will help facilitate risk assessment in communities and ensure regular follow-up of patients diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes.
The upgrading involves the distribution of blood pressure apparatus to barangay health workers, and glucometers to every health care facility.
According to the World Health Organization, NCDs are the top killers in the Philippines, especially cardiovascular diseases (33% of deaths related to NCDs), cancer (10%), diabetes (6%), and chronic respiratory diseases (5%) – dubbed the "fatal four" NCDs.
"Unhealthy habits such as smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and unhealthy diet have sparked an epidemic of diseases which together constitute the leading cause of death," the DOH said.
The National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed an increasing prevalence of diabetes and a decreasing prevalence of hypertension in the Philippines from 2008 to 2013: