FILIPINOS are not as healthy as they think they are, a mobile phone health survey conducted by the Department of Health indicated.
In June this year, the DoH undertook the landmark mobile phone health survey. The survey focused on five associated non-communicable diseases risk factors: tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, diabetes and hypertension.
A total of 977,957 mobile phone numbers were sent invitations to participate in the survey. The numbers were generated by a computer (called random digit-dialing). Out of these phone numbers only 3,679 qualified after careful screening. Respondents were subscribers of the three leading mobile phone networks. Respondents completed a set of questions using short messaging service or mobile web modes.
Tobacco use is one of the major risk factors for NCDs. The study revealed that, overall, 19.4% of Filipino adults are tobacco smokers, with 30.1% of men and 8.8% of women reporting current tobacco use. Approximately 2 in 10 adult men (18.7%) smoked tobacco on a daily basis compared to women (4.3%). Among the respondents, 5.2% are currently using smokeless tobacco (8.1% among men and 2.3% among women).
In terms of alcohol use, 36.3% of adult surveyed consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Alcohol consumption is reported to be more frequent in males than in females (51.9% vs. 20.8%, respectively). Among adult Filipinos who reported drinking in the past 30 days prior to the survey, 33.5% recalled drinking six or more drinks in a single drinking occasion.
On diet, 91.6% of respondents reported consuming less than the recommended five servings of fruits or vegetables on a daily basis; less than 1% reported not consuming fruits or vegetables daily. A large number (61.9%) of respondents reported always using or adding salt in cooking or preparing a meal. 40.2% of them reported that they always add salt or salty sauces to food before or while having their meal.
Sixteen percent of respondents reported receiving a clinical diagnosis of raised blood sugar or diabetes (17.9% among men and 13.6% among women). About half (46.1%) were currently under diabetes medication. Thirty-one percent reported being told that they were hypertensive by their doctor or health professional; and 51.6% are on medications to control their hypertension.
The Philippines is one of the first countries to conduct a national survey using a mobile phone technology. The respondents were limited to adults who have access to a mobile phone and high educational attainment. The study affirms that NCDs and its risk factors affect the individual and Filipino society at large. The data presented a strong basis for the development of prevention strategies.
“Results of this survey will provide the DoH a national baseline in addressing NCDs in the country even as we make health services more available and responsive to more people and move towards Universal Health Care,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque concluded.