The Department of Health (DOH) on October 12, will launch the second phase of the non-communicable diseases (NCD) Mobile Phone Survey project after its supposed launch in May was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project aims to encourage the public to take part in the NCD Survey on how Filipinos are keeping themselves healthy.

According to the World Health Organization-Western Pacific Regional Office, a significant proportion of Filipino adults continue to be exposed to NCD risks of tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. This makes millions of Filipinos vulnerable in developing NCDs in the future. In the Philippines, NCDs are the country’s top causes of deaths.

The survey, written in both Filipino and English, can be done in two steps using a mobile phone 1) via SMS or text, free for all mobile phone subscribers; or 2) via mobile web, where a link to a web form will be sent to all subscribers. To avoid any data charges, please ensure that the device is connected to wifi.

In compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012, all personal information of the respondents/mobile subscribers will not be disclosed to third parties and non-identifying information will be secured. Responses will be anonymous and confidential. Consent will be asked from all participants and personal information will be removed before the data is stored for analysis.

The first phase of the survey was conducted in June and July 2018. A total of 3,679 individuals completed or partially completed the 2018 survey using either short message service (SMS) or mobile web. Highlight results from the 2018 first phase survey include:

  • Almost a fifth reported being current tobacco users, approximately one-tenth (11.5%) reported being daily tobacco users. Men were more likely to report current or daily tobacco smoking compared to women.
  • Overall, 36.3% reported current alcohol consumption, of whom a third reported heavy episodic drinking (33.5%). Men were more likely to drink alcohol and were reported to be heavy episodic drinkers than women.
  • A large percentage (91.6%) reported consuming less than five servings of fruits or vegetables per day.
  • Almost two thirds, 61.9%, reported always or often adding a form of salt as they prepared a meal.

From this 2018 mobile survey, it is apparent that many Filipinos are still engaging in behavioral risk factors like tobacco and alcohol use and eating unhealthy foods that may lead to illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, cancer etc. which are collectively known as NCDs. The DOH is cognizant of this alarming issue and have been developing and implementing interventions and strategies to address this such as:

  • Implementation of laws on increase excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol to control its affordability and eventually decrease consumption of these sin products
  • Graphic Health warning signs to instill health consciousness on the harmful effects of tobacco use and 100% smoke – free environments in public and enclosed places
  • The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, the first package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program which includes increasing excise tax on sweetened beverages and aims to reduce consumption of sweetened beverages, hence, contribute in the prevention and control of obesity, diabetes, and other NCDs
  • “Pinggang Pinoy” (Healthy Food Plate) intended to complement and supplement the Daily Nutritional Guide Pyramid on a per meal basis
  • Dissemination of advocacy and health promotion materials that focus on eating healthy, avoiding tobacco use and alcohol consumption and doing physical activity – using different platforms like posting in public places (e.g. lrt station, bus stops) and social media

“We encourage the public to participate in this DOH-sponsored mobile phone survey to assist the Department in developing evidence-driven strategies to complement our Healthy Pilipinas campaign,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III emphasized.