The Department of Health (DOH), together with the World Health Organization (WHO), Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), and World Heart Federation (WHF), today staged the Heart Care Summit 2022: Preventing and Beating Cardiovascular Diseases to highlight actions needed to prevent deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) – or diseases of the heart and blood vessels – are responsible for a third of death in the Philippines. According to the Philippine Statistics Office (PSA), CVDs are part of the larger group of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which account for 72% of deaths in the country in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic likewise threatened the health and lives of people living with NCDs as they are more vulnerable to severe illness or death. Moreover, the WHO reported that health care delivery shifted to creating more capacity for COVID-19 patients, making health and community services for NCDs less available.

As a response, the DOH and its partners organized the Heart Care Summit to strengthen collaboration among the DOH, WHO, development partners, academe, medical associations, legislature, civil society, and patient support and advocacy groups for cardiovascular disease prevention, as well as to prevent the long-term upsurge in deaths from NCDs–especially amid the pandemic where people living with comorbidities must receive the appropriate care to prevent COVID-19 complications and other chronic conditions.

To this end, the DOH-Center for Health Development (CHD) Western Visayas, together with WHO Philippines and RTSL, will also be relaunching patient support groups called Diabetes and Hypertension Clubs on September 29, 2022, after becoming inactive due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizing patients into active health clubs is a critical element of an effective and inclusive NCD control intervention. Their experience and contribution are essential to improving many aspects of any NCD-related programme.

“The world is not on track to meet the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. Only 14 countries will achieve the NCD target on premature mortality if we carry on with ‘business as usual.’ It is time for greater action on cardiovascular diseases starting with integrating hypertension and diabetes into essential universal healthcare packages,” said Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, Director for Noncommunicable Diseases, WHO Headquarters.

Additionally, the WHF and WHO have aptly chosen Iloilo City, the “City of Love,” for the commemoration of World Heart Day, noting that it is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the Philippines, making it a fitting venue for WHF’s call for urgent action on climate change and the dangers of extreme weather events on people living with CVDs.

“We enjoin local governments, our partner national government agencies, civil society organizations, expert groups, advocates, and our partners in the private sector to bolster our integrated efforts to beat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Through our continuous investment and collaborations, we are optimistic that we will uphold our commitments to our global targets. Let us continue working together to bring essential primary care services closer to Filipino families for the prevention and management of NCDs, while building healthier schools, communities, and workplaces that enable healthy behaviors for everyone,” said DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.