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‘Tobacco CSRs are a distraction to the real cost of smoking’ – law group

Aside from killing 117,000 Filipinos every year due to cigarettes and second-hand smoke, tobacco-related healthcare costs took away 65.80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012.

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Every year, the country loses at least 260 billion pesos due to tobacco-related healthcare cost and productivity losses, according to law group ImagineLaw, citing data from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

“The tobacco industry is an economic liability,” said Atty. Anna Bueno, ImagineLaw policy associate. “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and donations from tobacco companies are insignificant compared to the real costs of smoking,” she added.

Aside from killing 117,000 Filipinos every year due to cigarettes and second-hand smoke, tobacco-related healthcare costs took away 65.80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012, according to the law group, citing the same report.

While the country loses at least 260 billion pesos yearly due to tobacco-related healthcare costs, taxes collected from cigarettes amounted to  P148.45 billion in 2020, according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Despite these alarming numbers, the tobacco industry continues to sell and market a product that kills half of its users, according to the law group. “In the time of a pandemic where it has been shown that smokers are at a greater risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, tobacco companies’ CSR activities are nothing but distractions and a way to relax tobacco control policies,” Atty. Bueno also said.

Tobacco-related illnesses translate to financial losses in the workforce, according to the law group. “These illnesses force an individual to temporarily or permanently stop going to work, contributing to major losses in human productivity,” the lawyer said.

“The Philippines is losing so much to the tobacco industry. We are not only talking about billions of pesos, we are also losing dreams and aspirations. Imagine a father, who has just entered the productive years of his life, falling victim to a lung disease caused by smoking,” she said. “You mourn the life of the father, but the burden of his death also affects a whole family in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.”

”No act of public relations or PR can mask the reality that tobacco is dangerous and deadly,” ImagineLaw emphasized. “The tobacco industry’s donations are nothing compared to the amount of resources it depletes and the number of lives it claims.”

“Instead of falling into the PR trap of cigarette companies, the government should boost its anti-smoking campaigns and strengthen smoking cessation programs,” urged Atty. Bueno. “The government should also continue to reject any move by the tobacco companies and their fronts to relax tobacco control policies,” she added.

The law group declared that tobacco companies should be held liable by the government for making smokers and secondhand smokers more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms. “Tobacco companies put public health at risk, there’s no denying that,” added Atty. Bueno.

“Now, more than ever, the government needs to remain steadfast against moves by the tobacco industry to interfere with our public health policies. These policies should be upheld and their implementation strengthened. What we urgently need is a stronger public health system, not  tactical donations that are only meant to take away our resources and lives,” she concluded.

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Further evidence that vitamin D might protect against severe COVID-19 disease and death

Researchers found that ambient UVB radiation at an individual’s place of residence preceding COVID-19 infection was strongly and inversely associated with hospitalisation and death. This suggests that vitamin D may protect against severe COVID-19 disease and death.

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New research from Trinity College Dublin and University of Edinburgh has examined the association between vitamin D and COVID-19, and found that ambient ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation (which is key for vitamin D production in the skin) at an individual’s place of residence in the weeks before COVID-19 infection, was strongly protective against severe disease and death. The paper has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with an increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial respiratory infections. Similarly, several observational studies found a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19, but it could be that these effects are confounded and in fact a result of other factors, such as obesity, older age or chronic illness which are also linked with low vitamin D.

To overcome this, researchers were able to calculate “genetically-predicted” vitamin D level, that is not confounded by other demographic, health and lifestyle factors, by using the information from over one hundred genes that determine vitamin D status.

The Mendelian Randomization is a particular analytical approach that enabled researchers to investigate whether vitamin D and COVID-19 might be causally linked using genetic data. Few earlier studies attempted this but failed to show a causal link. This could be because UVB radiation sunshine which is the most important source of vitamin D for majority of people was ignored.

Researchers, for the first time, looked jointly at genetically-predicted and UVB-predicted vitamin D level. Almost half a million individuals in the UK took part in the study, and ambient UVB radiation before COVID-19 infection was individually assessed for each participant. When comparing the two variables, researchers found that correlation with measured vitamin D concentration in the circulation was three-fold stronger for UVB-predicted vitamin D level, compared to genetically-predicted.

Researchers found that ambient UVB radiation at an individual’s place of residence preceding COVID-19 infection was strongly and inversely associated with hospitalisation and death. This suggests that vitamin D may protect against severe COVID-19 disease and death. Additionally, while the results from the Mendelian Randomization analysis weren’t conclusive, some indication of a potential causal effect was noted. Because of the relatively weak link between genetically-predicted vitamin D level that is used for Mendelian Randomization analysis, it is possible that the number of cases in the current study was too small to convincingly determine causal effect, but future larger studies might provide the answer.

Professor Lina Zgaga, Associate Professor in Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Trinity College and senior researcher on the study said: “Our study adds further evidence that vitamin D might protect against severe COVID-19 infection. Conducting a properly designed COVID-19 randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation is critical. Until then, given that vitamin D supplements are safe and cheap, it is definitely advisable to take supplements and protect against vitamin D deficiency, particularly with winter on the horizon.”

Professor Evropi Theodoratou, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology and Global Health, University of Edinburgh and senior researcher on the study said: “Given the lack of highly effective therapies against COVID-19, we think it is important to remain open-minded to emerging results from rigorously conducted studies of vitamin D.”

Dr Xue Li, a researcher on the study from Zhejiang University said: “Our study supports the recommendation of vitamin D supplementation for not only the maintenance of bone and muscle health during the lock down, but also the potential benefits in relation to protection from COVID-19.”

The full paper: An observational and Mendelian randomization study on vitamin D and COVID-19 risk in UK Biobank can be read here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-97679-5.

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Homemade face masks work; effectiveness varies depending on how they are made

For mask fabricators and the general population, it is helpful to know that N95 and surgical masks are most effective, but when those aren’t available, some specific cotton materials or homemade fabrics are suitable for effective makeshift face masks.

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Since the spread of virus causing COVID-19 continues, experts recommended wearing homemade facemasks when surgical or N95 masks are not available to prevent the spread of the pandemic. While such makeshift masks are more economical and accessible in low-capita countries, the effectiveness of cloth masks has not been studied in depth.

In Physics of Fluids, by AIP Publishing, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science studied the fate of a large-sized surrogate cough droplets at different velocities, corresponding from mild to severe, while using various locally procured fabrics as masks.

“Our results show cotton, towel-based fabrics were most effective among the considered fabrics and must be stitched together as multiple layers for making homemade facemasks,” said author Saptarshi Basu. “A three or more-layered homemade mask is recommended, since it can suppress aerosolization significantly.”

The researchers analysed the effect of washing on mask effectiveness, and results showed a negligible influence of washing on mask efficacy for up to 70 wash cycles.

Using a piezoelectric-based droplet dispenser, the researchers created surrogate cough droplets that impacted a single layer of different fabric samples at different velocities. The fabrics used in the research included single layers of summer stole, handkerchief, cotton towel, and surgical masks.

The specific cotton-fabric materials were selected based on their daily usage and the propensity of people to cover their face using these cloth materials. The researchers used high-speed imaging to quantify the threshold for penetration and amount of droplet penetration at different velocities.

The researchers looked at how fabric properties, like pore size and porosity, influences droplet penetration through the mask.

The results are relevant for many groups including policy makers investigating how to counter aerosol generation through secondary atomization of cough droplets as they penetrate the mask fabric. For mask fabricators and the general population, it is helpful to know that N95 and surgical masks are most effective, but when those aren’t available, some specific cotton materials or homemade fabrics are suitable for effective makeshift face masks.

The findings also could be applicable in applications ranging from agriculture to medical practices, where placing a wire mesh or perhaps an engineered cellulose mesh of variable porosity can reduce the momentum of incoming spray from a nozzle, thereby ensuring optimal spread of nutrients or pesticides to crops or better disinfection in hospital  

The article, “Efficacy of homemade face masks against human coughs: Insights on penetration, atomization and aerosolization of cough droplets,” is authored by Bal Krishan, Dipendra Gupta, Gautham Vadlamudi, Shubham Sharma, Dipshikha Chakravortty, and Saptarshi Basu. 

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Nestlé Wellness Campus eyes to empower students, parents, teachers to live healthier lives

Collaborating alongside the government, Nestlé drives its purpose by unlocking the power of food to enhance the quality of life for everyone today and for the generations to come. “Nestlé Philippines, as a Kasambuhay sa Kalusugan, is actively engaged in supporting Filipino families to achieve a healthier and active lifestyle, especially in the face of the pandemic,” Kais Marzouki, Nestlé Philippines Chairman and CEO said.

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COVID-19 is a serious illness the whole world is currently battling, but this should not hinder us from taking care of other health problems. This includes malnutrition, which has been a concern among children, even before the pandemic. Malnutrition is one of the biggest impediments to human development. Children who are stunted, wasting, or obese may have some trouble performing at school, may experience low self-esteem, and later on, suffer long-term effects as an adult. 

According to a report from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 26% or 1 out of 4 school children are underweight, which is a condition where children are found to weigh below the standard weight for the child’s age. A survey last year also showed that 62% or 6 out of 10 of households experienced moderate to severe food insecurity — the state in which people are at risk or actually suffering from inadequate consumption to meet nutritional requirements.

In taking care of children’s nutrition, health, and wellness, we help ensure that they can have a brighter future ahead. However, due to lack of knowledge or resources, children are not able to eat food that is of adequate quality and quantity which is the number one cause of malnutrition.

“This is because we all know that an unhealthy child cannot learn as much as one who is healthy, well-fed, and given nutritionally sufficient assistance, especially for those who cannot afford the expense of maintaining healthy children,” DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said during a Memorandum of Agreement signing last January 2021.

As a Kasambuhay sa Kalusugan of Filipinos, Nestlé ensures that children get the proper nutrition they need through the Nestlé Wellness Campus (NWC) program, in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd). Established in 2013, the program began with the goal of raising awareness and providing educational materials to pursue wellness daily. One of their activities was a dance program after the flag ceremony to promote an active lifestyle. Nutritionist-dietitians also gave talks about balanced and healthy food choices to address the nutrition gaps and encourage healthier eating habits.

Over the years, NWC grew and was embraced by different DepEd regions. The dance program evolved into an inter-school and inter-region competition to recognize the best schools that have implemented the program in their community. Nestlé is committed to promoting nutrition, health, and wellness in the new normal by providing digital tools such as nutrition and sustainability modules, and wellness song and dance videos to educate students, teachers, and parents on the seven healthy habits they can apply at home.  

Nestlé also recognized teachers who went the extra mile to sustain and reinforce its healthy habits and create innovative learning experiences for children. They launched an exclusive NWC Facebook Group to continue their commitment and strengthen the pivot online. In this group which now has more than 47,000 members, teachers get to learn and share best wellness practices in their schools. Additionally, a Facebook Group exclusive for parents is also underway to provide them access to wellness content for their children and the entire family.

The program started at only 250 high schools with a total of 650,000 students in the National Capital Region (NCR) during its first year. Now, NWC has grown to inspire more than 7 million students from Grades 1 to 10 in 13,000 schools to live healthier lives. For SY 2021-2022, Nestlé anticipates the program to reach more than 10 million students across 7 regions nationwide, namely: NCR, CALABARZON, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Davao.

Collaborating alongside the government, Nestlé drives its purpose by unlocking the power of food to enhance the quality of life for everyone today and for the generations to come. “Nestlé Philippines, as a Kasambuhay sa Kalusugan, is actively engaged in supporting Filipino families to achieve a healthier and active lifestyle, especially in the face of the pandemic,” Kais Marzouki, Nestlé Philippines Chairman and CEO said. 

To learn more about how you and your family can start your wellness journey, join the Nestlé Wellness Homeroom Facebook Group. For some inspiration, watch the Kasambuhay for Good docuseries to see how Nestlé and its partners are empowering communities through nutrition, health, and wellness advocacy.

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