Sunday, July 21, 2024

HEALTH CONNECT FORUM SPOTLIGHTS STAKEHOLDER ACTIONS TO STRENGTHEN MATERNAL HEALTHCARE AND IMMUNIZATION

HEALTH CONNECT FORUM SPOTLIGHTS STAKEHOLDER ACTIONS TO STRENGTHEN MATERNAL HEALTHCARE AND IMMUNIZATION

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Health experts and representatives from Pasig and Quezon City Local Government Units (LGU) gathered at the latest Health Connect Media Forum to underscore the urgent need to strengthen maternal health and childcare in the Philippines.

The Philippines is yet to achieve its goal relating to the reduction of maternal death rates, which is hindering progress toward health and well-being commitments. In 2021, maternal deaths increased to 189 per 100,000 live births, the third-highest rate in nearly 70 years, behind only Cambodia and East Timor in the region.

Pre- and post-natal vaccinations, like influenza and Tdap, are crucial for maternal healthcare, protecting mothers and newborns from preventable diseases. Despite their proven efficacy, current legislation is yet to recognize these vaccines for pregnant women as a key opportunity to improve maternal health outcomes in the country.

In response to these pressing issues, Senator Mark Villar, the primary author of Senate Bill No. 1416 aimed at safeguarding the health of Filipino mothers during childbirth, expressed his support through a video message. He affirmed his commitment to championing maternal and child care for every mother and child in need, reiterating his role as an ally for maternal legislation in Congress.

Dr. Ma. Lorena Santos, President of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (PIDSOG) highlighted their active engagement with legislators and policymakers to promote comprehensive maternal health programs. “House Bill 9354 is currently in its second reading in the House of Representatives. We are optimistic about its progression to the final reading. We are coordinating closely with our Senate counterparts as they collaborate with the House.”

Reaffirming their commitment to maternal health, Dr. Tanya Victoria Verora, Maternal and Child Health Coordinator from the Pasig City LGU, highlighted several initiatives. These include training health staff on proficient community health service delivery and implementing programs such as ‘Usapang Buntis,’ ‘Pocket Buntis Congress,’ and ‘Buntis Caravan’ to raise awareness and promote safe delivery practices. Additionally, their logistics efforts involve providing baby kits and ensuring the procurement of essential supplements, including vaccines. They have also recognized the critical importance of pertussis vaccination for pregnant women; tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines are now included in their maternal health program.

Similarly, the Quezon City LGU has been recognized for its comprehensive care services. Ms. Ruby Lucasan, Midwife Supervisor of the QC Health Department, explained that they provide QCitizens with a comprehensive package from pre-pregnancy through newborn care. The city also has advocacy programs such as ‘Buntis Assembly’ and ‘Buntis Tour’ to bolster education campaigns. Moreover, they have implemented an ordinance mandating deliveries only in health facilities to ensure the safety of mothers and their babies.

“Vaccination is at the heart of universal healthcare,” emphasized Dr. Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV). She stressed the importance of encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated, highlighting its dual benefits in protecting both babies and maternal health. Dr. Minerva Calimag, Immediate Past President of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), added, “Having healthy mothers is crucial for a healthy community. A strong support from the government to ensure that no woman is left behind can make a difference.”

Throughout the forum, speakers stressed the importance of a whole-of-society approach to bridge gaps in maternal healthcare and empower expectant mothers to prioritize their health and their babies. They emphasized that no mother or infant should die from preventable diseases, advocating for concerted efforts to strengthen maternal healthcare systems nationwide.

The Health Connect media forum, moderated by broadcaster and journalist Ms. Jasmin Romero, is available for viewing on the Facebook pages of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), PFV, and PMA.