THE government will save nearly P800 billion yearly by investing in the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCD), factoring in the economic growth boost over the next 15 years.

The finding was outlined in a joint statement Monday issued by the Department of Health (DoH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Interagency Task Force (UNIATF).

The organizations called for more investment in preventing NCDs, adding that it sees significant economic impact from preventing 350,000 premature deaths due to NCDs.

“NCDs, which include diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and chronic respiratory diseases, account for 68% of all deaths in the Philippines. These diseases have been shown to negatively impact on the population’s health, as well as the economy. NCDs cost the national economy an estimated P756.5 billion per year, equivalent to 4.8% of the country’s annual GDP,” the Joint Statement said.

NCDs are usually caused by unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and eating oily and salty food. It is also a result of not having enough exercise.

Acting WHO Representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a statement that the findings are a reminder that the Philippines should address the direct and indirect cost of NCDs.

“The health and economic cost of NCDs is a sobering reminder for us that we need to do more to prevent and control NCDs in the Philippines… Major progress in the prevention and control of NCDs is within reach, but we need to act now and we must involve all sectors including health, education, finance, planning, environment and sports,” he said.

The DoH, WHO, UNIATF, and UNDP released Tuesday the Philippine NCDs Case Report which evaluated the economic impact of NCDs.

“The report found that investing in ‘Best Buys’ — cost-effective interventions targeting tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, excessive salt consumption, and physical inactivity — will have a significant positive impact on the economy and population health. The return on investment for implementing these “Best Buys” is estimated to be P377.7 billion over the next 15 years while the cost of implementation is much less, at P28.9 billion over the same period. Investing in ‘Best Buys’ will also reduce the premature deaths of 350,000 people over the next 15 years,” the organizations said.

The salt reduction package is expected to prevent 164,251 deaths in the 15 year time frame while the physical activity package will save 58,397 lives. The tobacco control package will prevent 71,130 deaths and the alcohol control package could save 57,872 lives.

The study also estimated the returns of investing in clinical interventions for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which are both the top diseases in he Philippines. Even if the initial investment is expensive at P530 billion, the report said it will prevent 43,327 deaths in the next 15 years.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in a statement Tuesday said a national strategy to address NCDs is in line with the Universal Health Care (UHC) Program next year which will utilize the proposed increases in Sin Taxes for funding.

“Our country’s efforts on tobacco control and sin taxes will jumpstart our NCD prevention and control strategies,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez