DAVAO CITY—The social pressure of urbanization has pushed lifestyle diseases up as the leading causes of death over the previous dominance of communicable diseases. Smoking, a major trademark of urban vice, has spread the risk to more persons and increases death risk by several notches, the Department of Health (DOH) warned.
Dr. Teogenes Baluma, Davao regional chief of the DOH, said the modification of lifestyle due to urbanization has also led to the emergence of lifestyle diseases in the top 10 leading causes of mortality and morbidity, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and hypertension.
“Ten, five years ago, we usually have communicable diseases in the list, such as tuberculosis, but now the changing lifestyle has also caused lifestyle diseases to increase,” he told a press conference at SM City here last week.
But a communicable disease, the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV), the precursor to the dreaded Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), is also on the rise, and health authorities have also ascribed its increase to the same health risks posed by urbanization.
Along with combating increased exposure to HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and pandemic-influenza strains, the World Health Day observation has called on governments to promote actions around the other health risks absorbing the greatest impact of urbanization.
Health risks were also being identified in increased exposure to environmental abuse such as pollution of the air and water, and waste disposal; to noncommunicable diseases such as addition to tobacco, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and illicit-drug use; to road-traffic injuries and violence; and to public-health emergencies such as epidemics, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
In Davao City, for instance, Baluma disclosed that 11 new HIV cases were detected. Since 1994, the number of HIV cases has reached 32, with 16 victims already dying. Baluma said that while commercial sex workers were the only ones being subjected to the tests, “what we are concerned is the male-to-male sexual activity as cases have also pointed at the increase in HIV infection among those who engage in this activity.”
Dr. Domilyn Villareiz, chief of the city’s antismoking task force, also warned that increased incidence of lifestyle diseases have been noticed among her clients. “Aside from the increase, I have noticed that they are also getting younger.”
She said that those getting tuberculosis at age 21, for instance, have admitted already using cigarettes at age 12. “And we know that cigarette smoking can lead to a variety and many kinds of diseases, including emphysema and cancer, even among children.”
In a statement distributed here on Monday to announce the holding of World Health Day on Wednesday, the DOH said that urbanization continued to keep its pressure on the cities, causing negative impacts on residents, especially on the area of health.
“In 2007, the world’s population living in cities surpassed 50 percent [of the entire population] for the first time in history, and this proportion is growing,” the statement said, saying that 3 billion residents are now found in the cities.
“Urbanization is associated with many health challenges related to water, environment, violence and injury, noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol, as well as the risks associated with disease outbreaks,” the statement said.
“We are at a clear turning point in which we are moving toward an increasingly urbanized world and, with it, the need to embrace the consequences this can have on health, both the benefits and the challenges,” it said. “Rather than look back 50 years from now at what could have been done, we can take action now to ensure that growing cities are healthy cities.” –Manuel T. Cayon / Reporter