MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine standing in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) watch list for tuberculosis improved from seventh place in 1997 to ninth place last year, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.
Dr. Rosalind Vianzon, program manager of the DOH’s National TB Program, said the Philippines remains one of the “22 high-burdened” for TB countries in the WHO watch list.
But in terms of ranking, the country’s standing had significantly gone down, she added.
Vianzon said the development reflects the fact that TB is now the sixth leading cause of death and illness in the Philippines.
“TB kills 75 Filipinos everyday, based on the 2nd (National Prevalence) survey (in 1997) and the 3rd survey in 2007. It’s the same but primarily because of rising population,” she said.
Speaking to reporters at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City as part of World TB Day, Vianzon said the DOH’s detection and treatment system for TB had also improved.
“TB-stricken individuals have become more open to seek consultation,” she said.
The DOH attributes the development to the undertakings under the project “2006-2010 Global Plan to Stop TB.”
Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako said the Philippines “has made great strides in combating TB.”
From a high of 38.2 deaths per 100,000 population or 35,000 cases in 1990, it went down to 28,000 cases or 31 deaths per 100,000.
“The country has also made notable improvements in TB case detection, reflected by the increase over the past five years in the number of all TB cases identified, from 134,000 to 150,000 per year,” he said.
“Almost half a million smear positive cases were started on treatment and 90 percent have been successfully treated.”
To arrest TB, the DOH had adopted the WHO recommended Directly Observe Treatment Short (DOTS) course.
For each patient coming to its DOTS centers, the agency offers free diagnosis and treatment amounting to P2,000.
Vianzon said anti-TB programs must be intensified to sustain the downward trend.
At present, the DOH’s budget for the programs is P1.1 billion, up from P100 million three years ago.
Dr. Geneve Rivera, Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) secretary-general, said tuberculosis is a reflection of poverty.
“Tuberculosis is a real measure of the quality of lives of Filipinos today,” she said.
“After more than five decades, TB still ranks among the top causes of disease and death in this country.
“This, despite advances in medicine and in health-related technologies, and amidst government programs.”
Rivera said social factors affecting health include unemployment, low wages, poor working conditions of laborers, landlessness of farmers, lack of adequate shelter and basic utilities for the urban poor, and other conditions that directly affect the people’s standard of living. –-Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) with Michael Punongbayan