Heart disease in PH worst in Southeast Asia – WHO
In the last 20 years, heart disease has remained the leading cause of death in the world and is still “killing more people than ever before,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its 2019 Global Health Estimates, and the Philippines is the worst in Southeast Asia (SEA).
One hundred twenty out of every 100,000 Filipinos died of ischemic, or coronary, heart disease in 2019, up from 103 per 100,000 population in 2015, the worst record among Southeast Asian countries that listed the ailment as its top cause of death.
The Philippines was followed by Malaysia (115 per 100,000), Singapore (91.2), Thailand (73.7) and Brunei (68.1).
The country had a better record of deaths due to stroke after it reported 68.6 per 100,000, behind Vietnam (164.9), Myanmar (132.2), Indonesia (132), Laos (80.5) and Cambodia (79.5).
But the WHO warned that governments must drastically improve the delivery of primary health-care services after data showed that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) now make up seven out of the 10 leading causes of death.
The WHO report noted that ischemic heart disease; stroke; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; trachea, bronchus and lung cancers; Alzheimer’s diseases and other dementias; diabetes; and kidney diseases accounted for 44 percent of the 55.4 million deaths recorded last year.
From over 2 million in 2000, deaths due to heart disease increased fourfold to nearly 9 million in 2019.
Leading causes of deaths
Two decades ago, only four out of the 10 leading causes of deaths were due to NCDs. This year, 74 percent of deaths worldwide are due to all sorts of NCDs.
“These new estimates are another reminder that we need to rapidly step up prevention, diagnosis and treatment of NCDs,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement.
“They highlight the urgency of drastically improving primary health-care equitably and holistically. Strong primary health care is clearly the foundation on which everything rests, from combating NCDs to managing a global pandemic,” he added.
Lower respiratory infections saw the biggest uptick in deaths as it rose from 69.9 per 100,000 in 2015 to 86.8 in 2019.
Of the Top 10 causes of deaths in the Philippines, only three saw a decline during the same period: tuberculosis (from 28.3 to 25 per 100,000), neonatal conditions (26 to 21.9) and interpersonal violence (15.3 to 13.7).
In releasing its estimates, the WHO stressed that there is a need to know how people died “to improve how people live.”
“Measuring how many people die each year helps to assess the effectiveness of our health systems and direct resources to where they are needed most. For example, mortality data can help focus activities and resource allocation among sectors such as transportation, food and agriculture, and the environment as well as health,” the WHO said.
Currently, the Philippines is rolling out the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, which aims to provide all Filipinos access to a “comprehensive set of quality and cost-effective, promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services without causing financial hardship.”
Three of its key reform areas are primary health care, province and citywide health systems integration, and predictable and precise fees.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the outbreak of the new coronavirus did not derail the government’s efforts to progressively realize the goals of the UHC but rather helped accelerate it.
“Battling the pandemic has demanded much more from our health system and not only revealed its faults but emphasized an urgent need to transform and heal the system as a whole. [The] UHC was crafted to address these very gaps which have plagued our systems for many years. Hence, it is a critical moment to fast-track the transition to [the] UHC,” Duque said.
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