DOH wants to institutionalize smoke free campaign

The Department of Health (DOH) has expressed full support to (SWP) Social Watch Philippines’ Smoke Free is the New Normal campaign. Dr. Beverly Lorraine C. Ho, DOH OIC Director for Health Promotion Bureau said that problems triggered by Covid19 is an opportunity to enact and enforce better laws and policies and more proactive campaign for better health, saying that “different government officials are of the same attitude,” right now.

During a webinar organized and hosted by SWP early this weeky, Ho said that there are several facts about Covid19 that are already known, citing older people and those with underlying health conditions more vulnerable to the respiratory disease as one.

She said that good and healthy lungs are needed to oxygenate the whole body and it so happen that “smoking destroys lung [cells] which make smokers more vulnerable to Covid19.”

According to Ho, the DOH would like to institutionalize a smoke-free new normal.

“For instance, the DoH AO 2020 – 0015, the base policy for Covid19 control and how to transition to the new normal stipulates that among others, smoking and drinking alcohol are discouraged but LGUs are only strictly implementing the mandatory wearing of masks, hence we need champion LGUs that will discourage smoking,” she explained.

Ho also pointed out that health care is devolved, based on the 1991 Local Government Code, and that “the fight is in the communities hence the importance of people-centered response.”

“We are gearing towards ‘setting approach’ because of the Universal Health Care (UHC). This means less vertical program but more programs in ‘setting environment.’ She cited as an example that the omnibus policy for schools, tobacco control is going to be a part of that package, adding “this would mean that school administrators would know all the laws/policies regarding smoking which need to be implemented.”

Ho also noted the role of SWP in the campaign, saying “ because of SWP’s, wide network, the tobacco control program is more advanced, hence we’re using its template.”

“Communications alone will not control smoking, it should be complimented with other efforts such as the policy-side to effect behavior change,” she further explained. The health official who took over DoH Health Promo only last March, also said that her group is regrouping because of the Covid19 and to address other important health concerns.

“Although there is a team dedicated in addressing Covid19, we are moving towards longer-term ‘fight’ on tobacco control. Its normal for government agencies to choose specific advocacies because of limited resources hence the help of CSOs in this fight against tobacco smoking is important,” she reiterated.

For SWP’s end, it noted that the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey reveals that about 16 million Filipinos are actively smoking.

“Collective action of Filipinos is important to reduce the number of smokers, especially now while Covid19 is raging globally,” SWP said, adding “as million have already died because of the pandemic globally, the capacity of our public health is being stretched to its limits.”

The group is also calling on government and Civil Society Organizations to work together with every citizen to ensure the quality of life for Filipinos.