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Medical Specialist Backs Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax



An obesity and lifestyle medicine specialist has expressed support for the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), saying this will help reverse the incidence of high mortality and low labor productivity that afflict developing economies like the Philippines that are now experiencing the “nutrition transition” of altered food supplies and sedentary lifestyles that ultimately lead to slow economic progress.

As a clinician and researcher, this bill is not anti-poor,” said Dr. Jan Paolo Dipasupil, a founding member of the Philippine College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Dipasupil said higher rates of obesity and its accompanying medical complications, such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, stroke, coronary heart disease, and some forms of cancers among the poor, can lead to “lower productivity, higher absenteeism, higher incidence of people working while sick, higher mortality rates and a shrinking working class.”

“These conditions will, in turn, result in “lower tax revenue, lower quality of life and ultimately slow progress of the economy,” he said.

Dipasupil commended the Department of Finance (DOF) for supporting the proposed SSB tax, which was originally proposed by Rep. Estrellita Suansing, as this will help address rising obesity rates in the country.

Studies have shown that we are into ‘Nutrition Transition,’ which is a combination of altered food supply and sedentary lifestyle, particularly in developing countries,” Dipasupil explained.

He said that “due to the very competitive value of energy-dense or obesogenic diets such as sugar-sweetened beverages and junk foods, the burden of obesity shifts towards the group of lower socioeconomic status.”

A member of the American Obesity Society, Dipasupil said the soda tax bill in the United States, which is similar to the proposed SSB tax here, was implemented to raise revenues from a broad tax base and to help educate people on the effects of unhealthy food products.

The Manila-based Dipasupil is also a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and the Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity.

Suansing, the primary proponent of the SSB tax, has said that contrary to the misperception that her proposal will hurt poor families the most, her measure will actually protect them from the threat of serious ailments such as diabetes and “non-communicable diseases related to the excessive intake of sugar, including chronic disease, diet-related cancers, and chronic heart and cardiovascular diseases.”

Among the government agencies backing Suansing’s proposal are the Department of Health (DOH), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Suansing has filed House Bill No. 292 that aims to impose an excise tax equivalent to P10 for every liter for beverages sweetened with local sugar, and P20 for those with high-fructose corn syrup or imported sugar.

Her proposal was among the 54 tax-related bills incorporated into the final version of House Bill 5636 or the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) that was approved by an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives before the Congress’ sine die adjournment.

Suansing cited the results of the National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showing that the prevalence of being overweight and obesity among Filipino children aged zero to five years old has significantly risen from one percent in 1989 to 5 percent in 2013.

She likewise noted that the prevalence of being overweight and obesity among children aged five to 10 years old has also risen from 5.8 percent in 1989 to 9.1 percent in 2013.

What is even more striking in the 2014 FNRI National Nutrition Survey is the enormous increase in the number of obese Filipino adults, from 16.6 percent in 1993 to 31.1 percent in 2013. In absolute numbers, it is very sad to note that 3 out of every 10 Filipino adults are most likely obese,” she said.

In 2015, the government released some P7.4 billion in PhilHealth reimbursements to over one million patient-members for hemodialysis alone. Suansing said.

This amount included the PhilHealth funds released for other non-communicable diseases related to the excessive intake of sugar, she added.

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua has said that the SSB tax should be viewed mainly as a health measure that is meant to discourage the consumption of high-sugar beverages, while encouraging industry players to develop healthier product alternatives.

According to Chua, the DOF originally intended the SSB tax to form part of a separate health package, “which will be coming at a latter stage together with the sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco.”

Chua said SSBs are mostly empty calories that have no or little nutritional value but are relatively affordable and easily accessible, especially to children and the poor.

Many people have said that this tax is anti-poor. But for a non-essential [food item], especially for a non-good, economic principle says that we should not use the regressivity argument at all. In fact, it is far more progressive over the whole spectrum if people’s consumption of these non-essentials and non-good are reduced so that they can consume the more important aspects,” Chua said. (DOF)

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5 More Deaths Linked to Dengvaxia for Referral to UP-PGH




Image Source: from by AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

The Department of Health (DOH) will refer five new cases of deaths linked to the use of the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, to the panel of experts from the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).

“At least five cases are for referral (to the panel) for review,” DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said in an interview with the media Tuesday.

Domingo said the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau was coordinating with hospitals to get the case records of these five new cases.

The UP-PGH panel was formed to validate independently allegations of death due to Dengvaxia, which had been administered to more than 830,000 public school children under a DOH immunization program.

The panel is already looking into 14 cases of deaths linked to the controversial dengue vaccine. The same cases are being investigated by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), saying that the children succumbed to Dengue Shock Syndrome.

Meanwhile, Sanofi Pasteur has agreed to pull out the unused Dengvaxia vaccines in DOH storage facilities until Friday.

During a press conference at the DOH media relations unit in Manila following a meeting between DOH and Sanofi officials Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that based on their latest count, the remaining stocks to be pulled out stand at 1,187,815 doses, worth Php1,187,815,000.

“It was also agreed with Sanofi that reimbursement will be in about one to two days after retrieval,” he said.

Duque said the vaccines would be picked up from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, and the DOH offices in Calabarzon, Central Luzon and the National Capital Region.

In Central Visayas where a community-based immunization for dengue was also held, the withdrawal of the vaccines would be completed by next week, he added.

The meeting was also attended by World Health Organization Country Representative Dr. Gundo Weiler.

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Massive HIV-AIDS Info Drive Yields High Number of Screened Persons




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The provincial health office’s aggressive campaign in the past couple of years on the deadly virus that weakens the immune system in man resulted in a rapid rise of individuals voluntarily submitting themselves for screening.

Last year, the HIV-AIDS campaign that was waged in schools and parishes all over the province encouraged 56 people for a check-up, more than double the 26 screened in 2016, and eight times more than the number 7 in 2015.

Although showing widespread awareness for those with questionable lifestyles, the trend was alarming, said Eunice Aida Batalon, provincial HIV-AIDS coordinator.

Out of the 56 screened in 2017 “the youngest was 12 years old, the oldest 72 years old, and two are females,” Batalon said in an interview at the Salvacion Oppus Yniguez Memorial Provincial Hospital (SOYMPH) at barangay Dongon, this city, January 10.

Samples of the blood taken were forwarded for confirmatory testing at San Lazaro hospital in Manila and the results were tellingly shocking: 4 out 7 screened in 2015 were confirmed positive; 4 out 26 in 2016 positive; and 7 out of 56 in 2017 were positive as well.

Those who had contacted AIDS in 2015 and 2016 already passed away, while 1 out of 7 in 2017 had expired, Batalon told PIA, although other sources said that 3 died in 2017.

Invoking confidentiality, Batalon would not state the whereabouts of those screened and those who perished, adding that not all were from the province alone as there were also those coming from the nearby towns of Leyte province.

While most of those afflicted cited poverty as reason for the infection, some well-off individuals also got infected, by way of men having sex with men (msm), Batalon said.

This year the continuing advocacy will focus on Parent-Teachers Community Associations (PTCAs), as parents and the family have vital roles to play to prevent the further spread of HIV-AIDS, Batalon declared. (ajc/mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)

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Duque Welcomes P1.4-B Refund for Unused Dengvaxia




Image Source: from by AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has welcomed Sanofi Pasteur’s move to refund the government Php1.4 billion for the unused doses of the controversial dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, in the health department’s public immunization program.

“We will ask for a full refund eventually. But for the meantime, we want the immediate withdrawal of all (Dengvaxia) vaccine vials stored in our cold chain facilities,” Duque said in an interview Monday.

“Ang importante kasi mai-withdraw na nila lahat ng mga vials because they are also eating up our space. Hindi kami makatanggap ng bagong bakuna sa cold chain facilities and RITM and regional storage facilities (It is important that they withdraw the remaining vials, which are eating up space in our cold chain facilities. We could not accept new vaccines in these facilities, as well as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and regional storage facilities),” he added.

The health chief said they also requested Sanofi to provide test kits developed by the University of Pittsburgh to conduct serotesting on children who received Dengvaxia, especially if they had no previous history of infection before receiving it.

Meanwhile, Sanofi said that their decision to reimburse the government for unused doses “is not related to any safety or quality issue with Dengvaxia”.

“Rather Sanofi Pasteur hopes that this decision will allow us to be able to work more openly and constructively with the DOH (Department of Health) to address the negative tone towards the dengue vaccine in the Philippines today,” the pharmaceutical company said in a statement, maintaining that Dengvaxia’s overall benefit remained positive in high endemic countries like the Philippines.

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DOH: Eat Iodine-Rich Food to Avoid Goiter




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The Department of Health (DOH) and the National Nutrition Council (NNC) here urged the public to consumer food rich in iodine to avoid goiter.

NNC-7 Regional Director Parolita Mission disclosed in a recent Association of Government Information Officers-Philippine Information Agency (AGIO-PIA7) Forum that 92 percent of goiter cases is due to lack of iodine.

Mission urged the public to eat iodine-rich food such as seafoods and only use iodized salt with enough quantity of iodine content.

“Iodine can be taken from seafoods and iodine function is for processing metabolism,” Mission said.

She also said that iodine helps regulate the thyroid hormones.

Aside from iodine deficiency, the excessive intake of foods such as cauliflower, cassava, and broccoli can also cause or trigger goiter.

Dr. Anessa Patindol Medical Officer III of DOH-7 said that those who experience symptoms of neck enlargement should immediately seek medical attention as this is one of the common indications of goiter.

Although goiter commonly occurs among women, Patindol said it is still best for everybody to regularly take foods rich in iodine and avoid foods that may trigger goiter.

Patindol added that the treatment of goiter may be costly but DOH is providing assistance to those that seek medical attention.

“We are just requesting the public to seek early consultation if ever they have unusual changes in their body such as neck enlargement, and difficulty in breathing” Patindol said. (ays/PIA7/AGIO-PIA7 Forum)

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