In the Philippines, there are over a million poor Filipinos who do not have direct access to healthcare. The country's mortality rate has risen due to malnutrition and pregnancy-related deaths, such as stillbirth and childbirth complications. Statistical report predicts that the Philippine population will double by the year 2029. Such demographic rise will challenge the country's economic growth, health and lifestyle of its citizens, social welfare and the environment. Research have shown that preventive healthcare can reduce the health problems among the people in the community.
The United States Aid for International Development (USAID), along with other international donors is working closely with the Philippine Department of Health in combating community health problems while promoting the overall health of the Filipino population. Other donors, such as the United National Fund for Population Assistance is reportedly contributing $30 million to support both the public and private sectors' national and local efforts in improving the reproductive health of the Filipino women. The World Bank is allocating a five-year funding in the form of a loan/grant of $120 million towards Women's Health and Safe Motherhood. In addition, the World Bank supports other expenditures for the Health Sector Reform Agenda initiatives which focus on the affordability of medicine and upgrades of health facilities. The Asian Development Bank is also sponsoring a program called the Early Childhood Development Project which aims in child survival through the implementation of nutrition program and preventive healthcare.
In 1999, a USAID-funded initiative called the FriendlyCare Foundation was established. This program is a private sector foundation that is geared in providing affordable healthcare services to lower-middle and middle-income groups who exceeds the low-income threshold, but could not also afford healthcare costs. The USAID-implemented initiatives include activities through the Philippine National Family Planning Program, Child Survival Program and National Health Insurance Program. This involves delivery of family planning and preventive healthcare services in the community at very affordable costs.
The overall objectives of the country's health initiatives are: 1) to decrease the total fertility rate through family planning and preventive healthcare; 2) to decrease infant mortality rate through the national nutrition program initiatives and 4) decrease in percent of birth in high risk groups also through family planning and preventive healthcare.
Challenged by limited resources and technical guidance, the nation's LGUs (including Oroquieta City's LGU), voiced out their concerns to the National Government. As a result, a USAID-funded program called LGU Performance Program is created to respond to such needs. This program is geared in improving the overall health status of the people in the community, particularly infants, children and expectant mothers. The utilization of family planning, maternal and child health initiatives and nutrition services facilitates the overall goal to improve the nation's health status. Activities are carried out through several forms of assistance, such as training and logistic resources, information technology, operational research, networking and advocacy to promote collabortive approach, and program management and monitoring.
With great admiration of the government's effort in combating the health problems in the Philippines, I strongly support the need to focus on the survival of children. As a nutrition professional, I strongly believe that the foundation of a healthy population should start at the early stage of life. The creation of a healthy base group can only be ahieved through early intervention during pregnancy, lactation, infancy and childhood.
The Nutrition Council of the Philippines has delegated its authority to implement its national nutrition program at the local levels with focus in high risk population. The Mindanao's Region 10 is among the identified "high risk" population and therefore, focus on the preventive healthcare is ongoing. Since Oroquieta City is one of the Region 10's high risk population, early intervention program has been implemented through the National Nutrition Program. In Oroquieta City, the National Nutrition Program's early intervention is being carried out by the Barangay Nutrition Committees. The ranking of Barangays according to percent of severe and moderate malnutrition is topped by 23.40 percent in Barangay Tuyabang Proper, then followed by 18.46 percent in Barangay Sebucal and 14.11 percent in Barangay Clarin Settlement, 13.97 percent in Barangay Apil, 11.29 percent in Barangay Burgos, 10.71 percent in Barangay Toliyok and less than 10 percent in Barangay Bunga.
The country's effort to continue to promote its healthcare initiatives recognizes celebratory events, such as the Philippine National Nutrition Month which is celebrated during the month of July. This year the Oroquieta City LGU kicked off its National Nutrition Month celebration on the first of July. The celebration included the launching of the program with the Nutrition Month prayer led by the City Health Office, National Anthem by a choral group, Pledge to Nutrition by Engr. Hernan V. Marcial (OCIGEA President), Nutrition Month Message by the mayor, Honorable Nancy S. Bandala, and then followed by HaTAW. The program was carried out by two emcees, Ms. Dioleta Toledo and Ms. Mila Ompoc.
The provision of adequate nutrition at the early stage of life must include supplementary feeding, nutrition information education, home food security, growth monitoring, the food fortification program and supplementation of Vitamin A, Iron and Iodine to prevent and control calorie and micronutrient malnutrition. To this date, the reported nutritional intake of the Filipino population is approximately less than 50 percent of the recommended dietary allowance. Such deficiency results in malnourished groups of people, especially children where growth and development is halted, health problem ensues and ultimately results in deaths.
Today, we can now look forward to a future of healthy generations. The micro nutrient supplementation of Vitamin A, Iron and Iodine for infants, children and expectant mothers provides a healthy base for children's growth and development. The food fortification process creates a safety margin for the population's healthy food choices. The food production program which involves growing crops (such as fresh fruits and vegetables), and raising small animals can help provide nutritious supplementary feeding and additional income (from sold surplus produce) to meet the family's daily subsistence, thus preventing hunger and malnutrition. Finally, the integration of nutrition education at the school levels facilitates proper nutrition practices and promotes healthy lifestyle.
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Ofelia B. Mutia, M.S., R.D., L.D.
Registered/Licensed Dietitian &