In a proactive move to ensure the health and well-being of Filipinos during the holiday season, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go presided over a Senate Health Committee hearing on Monday, December 18, to remind health authorities to prepare for the rise in cases of COVID-19, flu, influenza and other respiratory illnesses as well as public safety concerns while Filipinos celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

Go, together with the Department of Health, also underscored the importance of practicing moderation when it comes to eating during the Holiday season. Health Secretary Ted Herbosa, during the hearing, emphasized the need to avoid ‘MA’ foods – Mataba (fatty), Maalat (salty), and Matamis (sweet). They also stressed the significance of a balanced diet to prevent health complications, especially in light of the country’s ongoing battle with diabetes.

Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, acknowledged the progress made under Republic Act No. 11959. He stated, “Ito pong Regional Specialty Centers Act, 17 po yan na na-identify natin. It’s a multi-year plan of the government, isinabatas lang po natin ito para tuluy-tuloy po itong paglalagay ng mga specialty centers sa mga existing DOH hospitals.”

Go is a principal sponsor and one of the authors of RA 11959, which was signed into law on August 24. It mandates the establishment of Regional Specialty Centers within existing Department of Health (DOH) regional hospitals.

However, Go quickly turned the discussion to a pressing concern: the exclusion of diabetes from these specialty centers. His concern was echoed in the responses of the medical community, highlighting the significant prevalence of diabetes in the country.

“Meron lang pong concern ‘yung mga ibang doctors na bakit po hindi nasali yung diabetes dito sa Specialty Centers,” said Go.

“And it was answered by the DOH dahil maa-address naman daw po ito ng mga hospitals sa ngayon na hindi na po siya kailangan ma-identify as part of the Regional Specialty Centers,” he clarified.

Responding to these concerns, DOH Secretary Teodoro Herbosa noted the high prevalence of diabetes in the Philippines and its complications, which can lead to serious conditions like heart attacks, organ damage, and hypertension.

He said, “Ang diabetes, isa sa malaki ang burden of illness sa Pilipinas ngayon… So napansin n’yo, ‘yung lahat ng specialty, covered din po ‘yun, ‘yung end organ damage brought about by diabetes.”

Herbosa further emphasized the importance of preventive measures and public health education. He cautioned about the dangers of high-sugar and high-fat diets, particularly during the holiday season.

“So very important ‘yung moderation lang. We expect every individual to protect their own health also,” he advised, stressing the role of personal responsibility in health management.

Go resonated with Herbosa’s sentiments, acknowledging the challenges posed by dietary preferences while underscoring the need for moderation.

“Pakinggan po natin ang ating Secretary of Health. Lalo lalo na po ‘yung mga may karamdaman, may mga diabetes, iwasan po ‘yung mga matatamis. Tsaka ‘yung sabi nga ni Secretary, ‘yung mga taba, kung bawal po sa inyo, iwasan po,” urged Go.

The conversation then shifted to the broader implications of these health issues in public policy. Herbosa, leveraging his four decades of experience as an emergency department doctor, vividly described the dire consequences of neglecting chronic health conditions.

“May inatake sa puso, may nagkaroon ng diabetic coma, mayroong nagkaroon ng stroke,” he shared, painting a stark picture of the emergencies faced during holidays due to dietary negligence.

Herbosa also touched on the broader societal responsibility and the role of the government in health education. He emphasized the need for public awareness and individual accountability, especially during festive seasons notorious for unhealthy eating habits.

Go, aligning with Herbosa’s perspective, humorously but earnestly acknowledged the appeal of sweet and fatty foods, a sentiment likely shared by many Filipinos.

“Ang problema, Secretary Ted, masarap talaga yung matatamis. Masarap yung sweet,” he remarked, underlining the challenge of balancing enjoyment with health.

The Health Secretary’s advice on moderation was practical and relatable. He advised, “Kung natikman n’yo na, basta huwag naman sobra-sobra.”

In anticipation of the upcoming Christmas and New Year celebrations, Go also cautioned against the use of fireworks and reiterated the need to heed the advice of health officials. He also pointed out the heightened risk of respiratory diseases during the flu season, accentuated by the colder, rainy climate.

Go also reminded the public about the availability of healthcare services. “Kung sakaling magkasakit po, pwede n’yo pong lapitan ang inyong mga Super Health Centers, rural health station po. Magpa-check-up po kayo, early disease detection,” he stated, encouraging early consultation and making use of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s consultation package and the 159 Malasakit Centers nationwide to avail of medical assistance.

“At patuloy po tayo bilang inyong chairman ng Committee on Health na tutulong po na mas mailapit natin yung serbisyo medical sa ating mga kababayan,” he said.

“Again, let us be prepared at tandaan po natin ang disiplina po na natutunan natin sa panahon ng pandemia. Magtulungan po tayo at magmalasakit po tayo sa ating kapwa Pilipino,” Go added. ####