In January 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) conducted the second mobile phone health survey which focused on the five (5)  associated non-communicable diseases (NCD) risk factors: tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, diabetes, and hypertension.

A total of 3,087 Filipino adults participated in the survey to help inform public health programs and policies and policy makers. Respondents were subscribers to the three (3) leading mobile phone networks and were randomly selected via random digit-dialing to complete the survey using SMS or mobile web mode.

On tobacco use, the survey revealed that overall, 15.5% of Filipino adults are tobacco smokers, with 22.6% of men and 8.5% of women currently smoking tobacco. Approximately 1 in 10 adult men (13.4%) smoked tobacco on a daily basis compared to women (4.4%). Men also reported higher rates of smokeless tobacco use, 6.2% among men, compared to 1.6% among women.

On alcohol use, consumption was high, with 4 in 10 Filipinos (40.1%) reporting that they drank alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey. Alcohol use was higher in men compared to women, with 51.4% of men and 28.9% of women reporting current drinking use. One (1) in three (3) adult Filipinos (33.1%) reported drinking six or more drinks in a single drinking occasion.  Men reported higher rates of heavy drinking occasions compared to women (43.2% men vs. 22.9% women.)

On diet, 90.1% of respondents reported consuming less than the recommended five servings of fruits or vegetables on a daily basis; less than 1% reported consuming neither fruits nor vegetables daily. Dietary salt intake was high with 60.2% reporting that they always or often added salt in some form when cooking or preparing foods. Two out of five (39.5%) adult Filipinos always or often added salt or salty sauces to their food before eating, and approximately one third (31.4%) of adult Filipinos reported always or often eating processed foods high in salt.

Overall, 1 in 10 adults Filipinos reported receiving a clinical diagnosis of raised blood sugar or diabetes (14.1% among men and 11.3% among women). Of these, half (49.2%) were currently under diabetes medication. One quarter of adult Filipinos (25.8%) reported ever being told that they were hypertensive by their doctor or health professional, and 54.5% were currently on medications to control their hypertension.

NCDs continue to contribute to death and disability in the Philippines, but their effects can be reversed by modification of daily behavior habits including reducing tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

The Philippines is the first country to repeat a national survey using mobile phone technology; the first NCD mobile health survey was done in 2018. The respondents were limited to adults who have access to a mobile phone and the majority of survey participants reported high educational achievement. The study affirms that NCDs and its risk factors affect the individual and Filipino society at large. The data presented a strong basis to further strengthen the prevention strategies being undertaken by the Department of Health.

“Results of the study will provide the DOH supplementary national data 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.