4Ps: Crossing-the-road health intervention works
ILOILO CITY. – Helping children cross the poverty divide works.
That’s the conclusion of a study on the impact on children in Iloilo and Antique of the government’s 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
The study, funded by the Department of Health and the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council on Health Research and Development, looked at how the 4Ps have changed health care for children.
The 4Ps aim to fast-track a strategy to eradicate poverty and hunger through conditional cash grants to extremely poor households. Conditional because the cash out depends on families following prescriptions to improve children’s health, nutrition and education. The 4Ps target children from birth until 14 years old to provide them with education, ensure gender equality, reduce child mortality and improve child health.
Very poor families are given P500 a month for health and nutrition and P300 per month per child for education – or as much as P15,000 annually.
The conditions for families to continuously receive the money: their children 0-5 year old must receive regular health checkups and must be vaccinated. The 3-5 year olds must attend day care or preschool classes; 6-14 year olds must enroll in elementary or high school; and 6-14 year olds must receive de-worming pills twice a year. They must be in school at least 85 percent of the time.
There are prescribed subtractions from cash handouts depending on how families comply with the requirements.
The 4Ps started in 2009; the study was conducted three years later in pilot barangays of Iloilo City and five towns in Antique province. It covered beneficiaries whose number increased from 20,527 in 2009 to 173,669 by 2012.
In order for children’s health to get better, there must be an increasing demand for 4Ps services, says Dr. Renilyn P. Reyes of the Department of Health Western Visayas who led the study. On the supply side, the study focused on how to increase the demand through financial incentives.
Because and the number of families availing of 4Ps, the supply of services such as vaccinations and de-worming must be available. The study thus assessed child health through indicators such as immunization, de-worming and nutrition, the number of visits to health facilities when a child is sick, the frequency they were weighed and so on.
The study has policy implications, said Reyes. She conducted the study as a Training Scholar in Health Research with the Western Visayas Health Research and Development Consortium.
“The study suggests the need to continue the 4Ps,” said Dr. Ric Nadongayo, Provincial Health Officer of Antique, noting the interventions impact significantly at the local level.
One of the eye-openers: the study found that while 90 percent of children were fully immunized in 2008 the target of 95 percent coverage to limit the outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases was not achieved by 2009-2011 – until now.
Another wake-up call: only 1.1 percent of those surveyed, regardless whether they are 4Ps beneficiaries or not, were satisfied with the quality of health care in general.
Among the findings: a survey of 2,427 households with 534 children 1-5 years old suggests that 4Ps families have more children than non-4Ps beneficiaries. While they had at least a high school education, most household members enrolled in the 4Ps were unemployed.