In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the relegation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the order of public health priorities, there is a need for stronger and more concerted action to prevent the further spread of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, as well as mental health issues.
According to former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary, Dr. Manuel Dayrit, “non-communicable diseases are the new pandemic.” Based on a 2019 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs account for 68% of all deaths in the Philippines and its economic burden to the country is estimated at PHP 756.5 billion per year – equivalent to 4.8% of the country’s annual GDP.
Global healthcare company Viatris is committed to empowering people worldwide to live healthier at every stage of life, through Access, Leadership, and Partnership. Viatris is uniquely positioned to sustainably deliver high-quality medicines and health solutions to provide access at scale and work closely with likeminded stakeholders to bring innovative solutions to Filipinos regardless of geography or circumstance.
“Viatris is committed and invested in providing solutions to patients suffering from heart diseases and mental health disorders, among other chronic NCDs,” said Viatris Philippines Country Manager, Ester Tacanay. “However, our solutions alone are not enough. We need a ‘whole-of-society approach’ – one that brings the sectors of government, the medical community, patient groups, hospitals, primary care facilities, and industry together. The time to act is now,” added Tacanay.
To realize this commitment and intensify collaboration among multidisciplinary health experts in the entire country, Viatris Philippines held the Philippine NCD Summit 2023. Viatris convened more than 500 healthcare professionals in Metro Manila and in 26 satellite sites across the country.
NCDs in Focus, Act Now
The PH NCD Summit 2023, entitled NCDs in Focus, Act Now! centered on NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases and mental health disorders in the context of the Philippines. The Summit is the Philippines’ commitment to Viatris’ global NCD Academy initiative.
As keynote speaker, former DOH Secretary Dayrit, presented his views on the status of NCDs in the country, and revisited the issues and challenges of cardiovascular diseases and mental health disorders. Dr. Dayrit called for consistency and strengthened initiatives from responsible organizations to support intervention packages proposed by the World Health Organization. These include investments in tobacco and alcohol control, salt reduction, and physical activity awareness packages to help prevent and manage non-communicable diseases. According to Dr. Dayrit, the proposed PHP 28.9 billion investment for selected intervention packages over 15 years will net the Philippines a PHP 377.7 billion return on investment.
“These holistic interventions will save lives, protect families and communities, and contribute to the national economy in productivity benefits,” Dr. Dayrit said. “The world may slowly be transitioning to a post-pandemic world, but people must remember we’re still confined in a non-communicable disease pandemic. This is what we must continuously prepare for,” added Dr. Dayrit, who is also the former Dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.
Other notable speakers, Dr. Louella Santos (President, Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society), Dr. Robert Buenaventura (President, Philippine Psychiatric Association), Professor Nina T. Castillo-Carandang (University of the Philippines College of Medicine), and Dr. Michael Fong (Healthcare IT expert), explored cardiovascular disease management and interventions, exacerbation of mental health problems during the pandemic, the interplay between socio-economic inequalities in the Philippines and pandemics, and how innovative digital tools can enable NCD management.
Viatris heeds WHO’s Global NCD Compact 2020-2023
In a recent report by the World Health Organization, access to medicines for noncommunicable diseases, policies and strategies implemented by countries were significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. People living with heart diseases and other NCDs experienced difficulties in accessing their routine medicines.
Looking ahead to 2030, the World Health Organization aims to save lives and improve livelihoods for people living with NCDs through the Global NCD Compact 2020-2030. It is a high-profile flagship initiative of the WHO Department for Noncommunicable Diseases to ensure member states adopt best-practice policies and programs on the prevention and control of NCDs.
“Viatris is heavily committed in the NCD Academy to foster progress towards achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 3.4 which has the aim of reducing premature mortality from NCDs in 2030 by 33% compared to 2015 levels,” said Viatris Philippines Country Manager Ester Tacanay. “The NCD Academy continues to be a critical educational tool for health care professionals globally as they hone the skills needed to continue to tackle some of the world’s most pressing health concerns.”
The NCD Academy provides high-quality continuing education available anytime, anywhere, and free of charge on skills to mitigate today’s leading causes of death and disability. With users spanning over 100 countries, courses cover a wide range of topics including cardiovascular diseases, cancer care, mental health, diabetes management, the driving forces behind NCDs, catalyzing change against NCDs, chronic respiratory diseases and the social determinants of health. Courses are delivered through eLearning technology to enable interactive patient cases and games in a fully on-demand and mobile-friendly environment that fit into the often-demanding schedules of health care professionals.
“Viatris continues to make supporting third-party HCP education a priority. This commitment is demonstrated through one of our initial access goals announced in our 2021 Sustainability Report: to impact 100 million patients via HCP education and outreach regarding prevention, diagnosis and treatment options for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other important chronic conditions to improve outcomes through the NCD Academy by the end of 2025”, added Tacanay.