Population and Development (PopDev)


Responsible Parenthood - Family Planning (RP-FP)


Adolescent Health and Development (AHD)

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Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health

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Rody on family planning: 3 children enough

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed yesterday to push for a stronger family planning program, specifically limiting the number of children of every couple to three.

“I will reinstall the program of family planning. Three children should be enough so social workers must be proactive. Better shape up,” Duterte said during the flag-raising ceremony yesterday at Davao City Hall, his last before he assumes office as the 16th president of the country on June 30. 

He said he expects to lock horns again with the Catholic Church over the issue.

The country’s population has reached over 101 million, based on the latest national census.

Duterte pointed out that among the past administrations, it was only president Fidel Ramos who, despite opposition from the Catholic Church, strongly pushed for the Reproductive Health Law.

The Catholic Church has been consistent in its stand against abortion and contraception. He said he has initiated a family planning program in this city involving the distribution of contraceptive pills for free and the granting of “cash incentive” of as much as P5,000 for vasectomy or ligation.

The RH Law, passed in December 2012 under President Aquino, allows public health centers to hand out contraceptives such as condoms and pills and teach sex education in schools.

Apparently intended as another joke, Duterte said he is ready to offer P10,000 to anyone who would have his penis cut off as part of his family planning drive.

“I give free family planning pills and I give P5,000 for each vasectomy and ligation case and I am even willing to give P10,000 for whoever would have his penis cut,” Duterte said.

He even joked about having his own penis cut off because of the problem between his former wife Elizabeth Zimmerman and his current partner Honeylet Avanceña.

“So that it would no longer be a problem. I have mine cut,” Duterte told the more than 500 Davao City Hall employees who attended the flag-raising ceremony.


- Edith Regalado

DOH posts marked improvement in RPRH spending in 2015 


Despite a temporary restraining order (TRO) on subdermal contraceptive implants issued by the Supreme Court in June 2015, the Department of Health (DOH) posted improved budget expenditure numbers in its 2015 Accomplishment Report released on Wednesday (June 22).

The DOH spent P40.7 billion for Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) services in 2015, a leap from the P26.8 billion in 2014.


Spending for the Health Facilities Program was 32% higher than in 2014. Similar improvements in utilizing the budget was also seen in the Expanded Program on Immunization and Family Health and Responsible Parenting.P240 million was spent by the Commission on Population (POPCOM) for their RPRH activities.

POPCOM reached 599,310 clients through 55,493 Barangay RPRH classes. They also reached 117,583 couples through their Pre-Marriage Counselling (PMC), as well as 25,063 clients through the Usapan Serye program.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth reimbursed P10.14 billion to pay for 992,442 women who gave birth in a facility—an increase from 736,707 in 2014, worth P7.64 billion in claims.

The 2015 Accomplishment Report also highlighted progress in key areas, such as the increase in the number of women using birth control pills. The report also listed that out of 1.5 million live births in 2015, 1.2 million were covered by the DOH.

The DOH also procured anti-retroviral drugs worth P220 million in 2015, to be delivered this year to benefit the 15,000 people living with HIV. Free testing services nationwide are also current available.

Part of the funds were also allocated to help implement the Magna Carta of Women, with 87% of 42,029 barangays already equipped with a Violence Against Women (VAW) help desk.

To help implement the RPRH Law, development partners and civil society organizations additionally spent P5.92 billion and P238 million respectively.

“Even with the partners, even with POPCOM, DOH and other government agencies, we always emphasize that we have to minimize trainings and advocacies. We now have to maximize service delivery,” DOH Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin noted.  Aya Tantiangco/BM, GMA News

DOH: 'We were able to deliver on RH promise'

THE Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday that the outgoing Aquino administration was able to fulfil its promise of delivering an effective reproductive health program despite the odds posed against the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law.

In a press conference in Manila, Health Secretary Janette Garin noted how they were able to fulfil, albeit brief, the promise of providing the public proper family planning programs, particularly in the areas of maternal, neonatal, child health; family planning; adolescent sexual reproductive health; sexually transmitted infections; and, gender-based violence.

"Now is the time to shift away from advocacy and focus on service delivery. The National and Regional Implementation Teams, in partnership with the civil society organizations, have enhanced the implementation, especially at the grassroots level," said Garin.

Based on the 2015 RPRH Accomplishment Report, a total of 1,200,000 (80 percent) total live births were covered by DOH facilities out of the more than 1.5 million total of live births, with the remaining 20 percent were home deliveries.

Also, an estimated 5.5 million women of reproductive age have availed of modern family planning methods, both natural and artificial; while the Modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR) has increased to 44 percent from 41.14 percent in 2014.

The law also resulted to some 134,000 young people getting counseled; 18,140 adolescents engaged through You-For-You (U4U) Campaign; and 272,955 girls aged 9 to 10 years old vaccinated against Human papilloma virus (HPV).

A total of 13,908 people living with HIV are also presently undergoing Anti-Retroviral Therapy and are being financed using the P324 million DOH budget for the medicines, testing, counseling, and advocacy programs against HIV.

Finally, the RPRH law has also resulted to 3,256 new Violence Against Women (VAW) Desks that have been established in barangays nationwide and are ready to respond to gender-based violence cases.

Republic Act 10354, or the RPRH Law, aims to guarantee a universal access to methods of contraception, fertility control, sexual education, and maternal care.

DOH to sue Sorsogon mayor

In a related development, DOH–Family Health Office Director Dr. Junice Melgar disclosed that they are already preparing to file charges against Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee over her city's decision to block all family planning programs.

"Actually, the legal office of the DOH has been consulting with the SolGen about the particular case in Sorsogon. The DOH is preparing a case. I think even the civil society organizations are pushing on with the case at the Ombudsman. A case of violations of the RH Law," said Melgar.

The health official noted how Lee has issued an Executive Order declaring Sorsogon City as being a "pro-life city".

"The de facto effect is that all provisions have been stopped. All utilization of logistics being sent by the DOH were stopped and actually returned to the DOH Central Office," said Melgar.

Aside from building up a case, the DOH has already asked the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to help in ensuring that all local government units will implement the RPRH law.

"We hope that the DILG and the Union of Local Authorities can be asked for this action to restrain the LGUs from passing policies against the RPRH law," said Commission on Population Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III. (HDT/Sunnex)

DOH preparing a case vs Sorsogon City mayor for banning family planning

By Jet Villa

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday it is preparing a case against Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee for banning family planning services and contraceptives in government health facilties since February 2015.

In the 2nd Popularized Report on the Implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012, or Republic Act 10354, DOH director for Family Health Office Dr. Junice Melgar said Lee had issued an executive order declaring Sorsogon City as a "pro-life" city.

As a result, she said all family planning logistics provided by the DOH to the rural health units in the city were sent back to the department. 

"There was a ban on family planning in Sorsogon as early as February last year so family planning commodities were withdrawn while services were stopped arbitrarily," she said.

"But the DOH did not sit down and watch it.  The DOH sent a delegation to Sorsogon to stop the council from enacting an ordinance that would codify the mayor's order," she added.

Melgar, however, said the order "unfortunately still stands but the DOH is develepiong a case against Lee.

"It's a first of its kind case to make the mayor accountable for gross violation of RH law," she said.

But the DOH is having a hard time getting information even from peeople who were deprived of the reproductive health services.

"There were efforts to get people from the ground, women and their families, to testify. But like our Manila experience, the women were really scared. So we know of people who were deprived of services but none of them were eager to come out and expose themselves and be involved in the case," she said.

Melgar was refering to a similar ban implemented by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza more than a decade ago.

"Unfortunately, Sally Lee was re-elected. We were hoping she would not. There was a good opposition candidate who was supportive of RH law but he died of heart attack," she said.

Government, NGOs and Partners Spent P40.7B for 2015 RPRH Services


for web 

Expenditures for the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) of Filipinos increased to 40.70 billion pesos from 26.8 billion in 2014. This was the highlight of the Department of Health (DOH) RPRH Report for 2015.

The leap in expenditure came despite last year’s hampered implementation due to the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in June 2015.

According to the 2015 RPRH Accomplishment Report, the TRO prevented DOH and other agencies mandated to implement the RPRH Law from implementing the subdermal implant method of family planning.

Moreover, DOH Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin attributes the increase in expenditure to the performance of the health department in utilization of its budget.

“I would attribute it to the good performance of DOH for the past months, for the past year. Because our utilization is not only good but fast, systematic, and planned. We don’t have delays because agencies and partners work together in a very much well-defined directions,” Garin explained.

The 2015 Accomplishment Report unveiled last June 22 showed that budget expenditure for Health Facilities Enhancement Program posted a 32% improvement at 89% from only 57% in 2014. For the Expanded Program on Immunization, the utilization rate increased to 99% from 95% in 2014. By the end of 2015, 78% of funds for Family Health and Responsible Parenting has been used, compared to only 61% during the previous year.

Will RH be a priority?


OUTSIDE, the entire metropolis, it seemed, was caught up in the feverish enactment of a “make-believe” scenario of “The Big One,” the long-overdue major earthquake hitting Metro Manila.

But inside the Century Park Hotel, adherents were gathered to discuss another sort of emergency altogether—the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law. More important, they were there to reflect on the accomplishments achieved since the law took effect, as well as the many barriers that still stand in the way of reaching the millions of Filipino women, men and children who stand to benefit from it.

Some might think the word “emergency” is a bit of an overkill to describe the country’s reproductive health situation. But what else do you call the death of about 12 women every day due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth? If we are not alarmed by so many deaths of women to easily preventable causes, what does that say about the value we put on the lives of women, of mothers?

And along with the deaths of the mothers, we must also reckon with the deaths of newborns or children under five, for the death of a mother often results in the death of the child born to her as well. Other deaths we can include in the toll of a poor reproductive health situation are the deaths of people living with HIV/AIDS, women dying from cancers of the breast or of the cervix (the top two cancer killers of women in the Philippines); and women dying, or whose health are compromised, due to sexually-related violence at home and in the streets.

That these don’t count as “emergencies” speaks as much about popular attitudes toward motherhood and the status of women in our society, as it does about the health system and access of individuals, especially the poor, to life-saving medicines, drugs, devices and services.

AT THE launch of the Second Popularized Report on the Implementation of the RPRH Law, Health Secretary Janette Garin stressed that “reproductive health should not stop with the law or with talking about it. (The need for it) is felt by every woman, every family, every community.”

She guided the audience through the “difficult voyage” to the passage of the law in 2012, describing it as a “dirty, dirty game” in which she was called out—as one of its prominent champions—for “promoting dissension in Congress.” Not only that, during the midterm elections of 2013, critics, including Catholic clerics, took to branding her as an “abortionist.” And while she was attacked regularly from the pulpits during Sunday Masses, as the election approached, the attacks escalated to daily harangues not just in churches but over Church-owned or influenced radio stations.

Even as the full implementation of the law was delayed for many months by a petition filed by opponents in the Supreme Court, Garin who had by then been appointed health secretary, was determined to fast-track and systematize the implementation of the law. She formed the “National Implementation Team” (NIT) to coordinate the efforts of agencies concerned with maternal and family health, together with the Population Commission and Dr. Yoly Oliveros of the Department of Health.

Former health secretary Esperanza Cabral was appointed NIT chair, while Dr. Junice Demetrio Melgar, recruited from the NGO sector, was appointed director of the Family Health Office which is tasked to carry out NIT’s programs.

THE tandem of Garin and Cabral, said Melgar, “made possible the swift implementation of the law,” with P20 billion allotted for the programs under the 2015 budget.

Under the NIT, policies were first ironed out after a national evaluation, providing “strategic leadership” focused on Melgar, called “the most critical issues of the day.”

The areas covered by the NIT began, of course, with maternal health and mortality, then moved on to addressing issues of adolescent health, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence.

One strategy, Melgar noted, was to not just involve but also harness the energies of civil society groups working together with government health providers and the private health sector.

The recent Supreme Court ruling temporarily preventing the DOH from providing implants and issuing licenses for all other forms of contraception (even those with existing permits) has proven to be a hindrance but, said Melgar, “it has never stopped the team from doing what it can.”

Aside from greater funding from the DOH (despite efforts by legislators to cut the flow of money for contraceptives), the NIT also counted on funding support from PhilHealth. Altogether, the public health insurance provider made possible P97 billion in reimbursements for those accessing RH services.

CERTAINLY, challenges remain for the “new team” taking over the DOH and the reproductive health program. But it certainly helps that the secretary-to-be, Dr. Paulyn Ubial, is a longtime DOH insider who has long been involved in maternal and child health, although she is at present assistant secretary in charge of the Office of Health Regulations.

Foremost of these is the existing TRO issued by the Supreme Court against the implants and the issuance of permits for all forms of contraceptives. Not only does the order present a large challenge to the program—for what is a reproductive health program without available contraceptives?—it also has, as Garin put it, “a chilling effect” on local governments who may be leery to provide any sort of RH service for fear of running into trouble with the law.

If President-elect Rodrigo Duterte holds as much commitment to maternal and child health as he does to eradicating criminality, he should put RH among the top of his agenda while in office.

- Rina Jimenez-David

DOH readies case vs Sorsogon mayor for 'gross violation' of RH law

Jeey Y. Geronimo


Because of an executive order declaring Sorsogon City as 'pro-life,' family planning commodities have been withdrawn from the city, and services have been 'stopped by the mayor arbitrarily,' say health officials.

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is preparing a "first-of-its-kind" case against Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee for alleged "gross violation" of the Reproductive Health (RH) law.

The case stems from Lee's issuance of an executive order in February 2015 that declared the city as "pro-life."

"The DOH is developing a case – a first-of-its-kind case – to make the mayor accountable for gross violation of RH law," said Director Junice Melgar of the DOH Family Health Office during the launch of the second consolidated report on the implementation of the RH law.

Melgar said DOH lawyers have been consulted about the case.

"Actually, the legal office of DOH has been consulted and the legal office actually consulted with [the Solicitor General] about a particular case against Sorsogon. So we're readying that. I don't know how long the bureaucracy in the Department of Health will take, but I think even the [civil society organizations] are pushing on with a case...of violation against the RH law," she said on Wednesday, June 22.

While the executive order sounds "simple," Melgar said the de facto effect is a ban since planning commodities were withdrawn from the city, and services "were stopped by the mayor arbitrarily."

The health department sent a delegation to Sorsogon City just as the local government was hearing an ordinance that was supposed to "codify" Lee's executive order.

"Because of the intervention of this group from the national agency DOH, [Commission on Population] – [the] regional directors of both PopCom and DOH were there – I think they were prevailed upon to stop the making of the ordinance, so it never progressed," she explained.

The executive order, however, still stands.

Melgar noted that the situation in Sorsogon City is "reminiscent"ofthe DOH experience in the City of Manila – one of the areas where she served as director and co-founder of Likhaan Center for Women's Health.

"There were efforts to get people from the ground – women and their families – to testify. But like our Manila experience, the women were really scared. We know of people who were deprived of the services, but none of them were eager to come out, expose themselves, and be involved in a case," she lamented.

Since the executive order was issued, Melgar said poor women had to buy their family planning commodities because the city stopped providing for them.

For now, the regional offices of DOH and PopCom, together with non-governmental organizations, are "filling the gap" in Sorsogon City.

"The [Commission on Human Rights] went there...this year, and they sort of affirmed that there's a problem. But Mayor Sally Lee got reelected again. We were hoping she would not," Melgar said.

In March, the CHR launched a national inquiry into RH law violations in the country.

PopCom executive director Juan Antonio Perez III, meanwhile, urged the Department of the Interior and Local Government to enforce its December 2015 memorandum circular, which stressed that local government units (LGUs) may enact enabling ordinances, issuances, and policies that support and institutionalize the implementation of the RH law.

"Specifically, the circular says LGUs should not issue, make any legislation that is contrary to the law," Perez noted.

He said the delivery of RH services on the ground will not be sustainable without the support of LGUs.

"I think that's where DOH, PopCom, [and] civil society should continue to be watchful, and to see how the legislative process continues under Sally Lee. We will be ready to take action when necessary," he added.

The controversial RH law was enacted in 2012 but it wasonly declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2014. It was not fully implemented until November 2015–

Use of modern family planning methods in PH rose in 2015 – report


MANILA, Philippines – Despite a Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order (TRO) that affected the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) law, the use of modern family planning methods in the country still increased in 2015, according to a recent report from the health department.

Released on Wednesday, June 22, the second consolidated report on the implementation of the RH law revealed the use of modern family planning methods in the country was at 43.8% in 2015 – an increase from 41.14% in 2014.

It has been steadily increasing over the years, from 33.4% in 2003, 34% in 2008, and 37.6% in 2013.

Unfortunately, the growth in national modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) was not able to catch up with the increase in eligible population, since the eligible population of women in reproductive age grew by 1.9% every year, while mCPR only increased by 1.78%.

As of 2013, the unmet need for modern family planning methods is still very high at 18%. Of this number, 7% want to space births, and 11% want to stop giving birth.

The report noted that women without any formal education have the highest levels of unmet need (24%), while women with higher levels of education have the lowest unmet need (16%).

"Almost 5.5 million women are using modern family planning methods," the report read. Below is a breakdown of the number of current users of short acting, long acting, and permanent methods:


Short acting Long acting Permanent

Pills - 1,952,190
DMPA injectables - 817,750
Condoms - 251,593

IUDs - 400,071
Implants - 100,869

BTL - 718,553
NSV - 12,863


Former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, who chairs the National Implementation Team of the RH law, said 2015 was the year many of the policies aligned with the RH law were put in place. These policies, she said, will "make it easier and more effective for the law to be implemented."

"Secretary [Janette] Garin provided a lot of resources for service delivery, although we're still in the infant stage of the engagement of civil society organizations [CSOs] with the Department of Health in the delivery of family planning services, as well as adolescent youth and reproductive health services," Cabral said on Wednesday, during the launch of the report.

The biggest challenge in improving access to family planning methods is the TRO on the health department's distribution and sale of implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years.

The SC also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration from "granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices."

Wednesday's report said this TRO poses "a serious threat to the availability of modern contraceptives in the local market – both public and private."

It recommended the mobilization of other sectors to lobby for the lifting of the TRO. In the meantime, the report said the capacities of CSOs and private providers to provide RH services – including implants – should be maximized.

In 2015, a total of P40.70 billion was allocated for the implementation of the RH law:


  • Department of Health - P21.74 billion
  • Commission on Population (PopCom) - P240 million (demand generation activities)
  • PhilHealth - P12.80 billion (reimbursement of benefit payments)
  • Development partners - P5.92 billion
  • CSOs - P238 million


Aside from updates on modern family planning methods, there were 4 other key areas in the accomplishment report:

Maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition

According to the report, out of the estimated 1.5 million live births in 2015, an estimated 1.2 million (77%) live births were covered by Department of Health (DOH) facilities. These are facility-based deliveries, and not home deliveries.

The Philippines in 2015 did not meet its Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality in the country. Wednesday's report noted that maternal mortality ratio that year "has not substantially declined and remains at almost similar levels" as the 1993 National Demographic and Health Survey (209 per 100,000 live births) and the 2011 Family Health Survey (221 per 100,000 live births).

On child health and nutrition, meanwhile, the report cited the 2015 Food and Nutrition Research Institute Survey which revealed that the prevalence for both underweight and stunting among under-five children has increased from 2013 to 2015:

  • underweight - 20% in 2013 to 21.5% in 2015
  • stunting - 30.3% in 2013 to 33.4% in 2015


Adolescent sexuality and reproductive health

The PopCom has engaged 18,140 adolescents through its U4U educational caravan, which raises awareness on adolescent health and youth development concerns. (READ: Young, tech-savvy Filipinos more sexually active than you think)

Over 25 hospitals nationwide also provided adolescent sexuality and reproductive health services through the Program for Young Parents. In 2015, the program provided counseling services to 134,000 young people.

The health department's human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign, meanwhile, vaccinated 272,955 girls aged 9 to 10 with their first dose of HPV immunization, which will protect them from cervical cancer – the second most common type of cancer among women.


Sexually-transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS

The health department allotted P324 million from its budget for the prevention, treatment, and management of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS in the country.

Anti-retroviral drugs worth P220 million were procured in 2015 and will be delivered in 2016 to benefit more than 15,000 people living with HIV who need antiretroviral therapy.

To date, a total of 13,908 people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy. The health department said that as of April 2016, the cumulative number of HIV cases since 1984 is already at 33,419.


Gender-based violence

"Eliminating violence against women [VAW] and children and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence is a critical component of the [RH] law, both as a human rights and public health issue," the report read.

The report said that as of December 2015, 36,577 or 87% of the 42,029 barangays in the country have already established VAW desks. This is beyond the 83% target for 2016.

A total of 3,256 new VAW desks were established in 2015.



Press Release
On the launch of the RPRH Law Second Consolidated Report
June 22, 2016


 RPRH Main


Despite being a devoted Catholic country, the Department of Health (DOH) executed the first “full” implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law through its arms, the National Implementation Team (NIT), with the Commission on Population (POPCOM) as Secretariat.

“Because now is the time for us to shift away from advocacy and focus on service delivery. The NIT and Regional Implementation Team (RIT) in partnership with the civil society actually enhanced the implementation especially at the grassroots level because you just don’t only depend on government. We now include NGO (national government organization), civil society, and private providers. It’s actually helping each other to deliver for our people,” Health Secretary Janette Garin said in an interview. (Translated from a mix of Filipino and English)

Guided by the mandate stated in Section 21 of R.A. 10354 (Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012) and Rule 15 of its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), the DOH complied with the requirement to report the accomplishments of RPRH.

The implementation of the RPRH Law began in 2014 but it was this year that marks the full implementation since the law was declared mainly constitutional by the Supreme Court in April 2014.

DOH to restore P1-B budget for contraceptives

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health will work for the restoration of the P1-billion budget for contraceptives slashed by Congress from the 2016 budget of DOH, incoming health secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial told The STAR yesterday.

Ubial said the DOH would file a proposed budget with Congress after the State of the Nation Address to get back the allocation for contraceptives.

“This has been discussed during the last Cabinet meeting and that will become a Duterte budget. We will include the priorities of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte,” she added.

But Ubial could not yet ascertain how much budget the DOH would ask from Congress.

“I have to find out what have been implemented, what (contraceptives) were procured and what we still need to procure to close the gap,” she added.

Under the reproductive health program, the DOH is mandated to provide condoms, pills, intra-uterine device, post partum IUD and breastfeeding pills.

The removal of the P1-billion budget came at a time when the country’s population rose to more than 100 million. 

The unmet need of Filipino women for contraceptives is 6.7 percent and this is equivalent to seven million women needing contraceptives.

The budget cut was also implemented when the country is gripped by soaring HIV/AIDS cases, primarily due to homosexual activities.

The DOH has documented a total of 32,647 HIV/AIDS cases from 1984 to March 2016. In 2008, only one case was being recorded every day, but it increased to four in 2010, nine in 2012, 17 in 2014 and 22 in 2015.

Pending the restoration of the budget, Ubial said the DOH would be refocusing its reproductive health programs on “poor married women of reproductive age.”


- Sheila Crisostomo

Pregnancy support services sought


MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas III has expressed alarm over the country’s increasing maternal mortality rate in recent years despite its commitment to meet health, women empowerment, and child nutrition targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Citing the 5th Philippine Progress Report on the MDGs, Vargas said the country “may not have met its MDG target on maternal health as the maternal mortality ratio increased from 209 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 221 in 2011 – failing to meet the 2015 target of 52.”

“It is disturbing to note that maternal health, as part of the country’s MDGs, is not so encouraging,” Vargas said.

The lawmaker said he would push for approval of the measure in the 17th Congress for the establishment of an Office of Pregnancy Support Services (OPSS) under the Department of Health.

The proposed OPSS, he said, would be tasked to encourage and assist pregnant women to carry their children to live birth by providing services during and after pregnancy.

“Our initiative seeks to alleviate pregnant women and their families from the difficulties that may otherwise lead to abortion or death of a child during childbirth,” Vargas said.

Pregnancy support services refer to services offered by the government, faith-based, and other providers, during and after pregnancy (material assistance such as maternity and baby clothing, diapers, baby food and baby furniture); referrals for adoption, job training, housing, assistance with domestic violence, and food stamps and other assistance;

Crisis hotlines, including for violence or suicide prevention; pro-bono obstetric and prenatal care services for women intending to carry their children to live birth (including services during pregnancy and following childbirth, and neonatal services); pro-bono legal services to assist women who wish to carry their children to live birth and parents with newborn children; and child care services; services to assist parents to care for, and prepare to care for, a child with Down Syndrome or another prenatally diagnosed condition, and to facilitate the adoption of such children as appropriate.


- Paolo Romero

Dalandanan kids complete nutrition program


Seventy children have completed a nutrition program in Barangay Dalandanan, Valenzuela City under a project initiated by food company CDO Foodsphere Inc. in partnership with Friends of Win Organization.

This has brought to 17,689 children the total beneficiaries of Gabay Nutrisyon, a 90-day supplemental feeding program undertaken by Odyssey Foundation, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of CDO Foodsphere since 2005 with the support of United Laboratories and other partners.

Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death among children under five years old. Three million children die each year globally because of malnutrition, according to studies.

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) reported that 33 percent of Filipino children less than five years of age face chronic malnutrition. FNRI encourages early intervention to prevent the growing number of undernourished children.

In response to the call of mitigating hunger among Filipino children, CDO Foodsphere through Odyssey Foundation formed Gabay Nutrisyon, a community-based supplemental feeding program which started in June 2005.

“Urgent interventions are needed to reverse the health condition of those Filipino children. And a directly administered and closely monitored feeding program such as what we do in ‘Gabay Nutrisyon’ brings the needed results,” said Jerome Ong, President of CDO Foodsphere and Odyssey Foundation.

Gabay Nutrisyon provides nutritious heavy meals and vitamins for 90 days to malnourished and severely underweight children to restore their health.    It started in Barangay Paso de Blas where CDO Foodsphere’s plant is located. It was then a 64-day feeding catering to 150 children.

Through the help of community volunteers and partners, the kids were served heavy snacks and vitamin supplements. Nutritious meals were prepared by CDO canteen personnel and delivered to the community by OFI staff.  Monthly weighing of the children beneficiaries was conducted to measure the impact of the program.

Aside from food-related problems such as hunger and malnutrition, Gabay Nutrisyon also looks into the health profile of the family of the participants as well as the social aspect of the malnutrition problem.

Being home to CDO Foodsphere, most of the feeding programs were conducted in Valenzuela City with the strong support of then Mayor and now Senator-elect Sherwin T. Gatchalian.  OFI has already implemented 25 batches of Gabay Nutrisyon.

The most recent one was held in Barangay Dalandanan in Valenzuela City in partnership with Friends of Win organization.


-Malaya Business Insight


Study: Most antidepressants don’t work for young patients

LONDON — Scientists say most antidepressants don’t work for children or teenagers with major depression, some may be unsafe, and the quality of evidence about these drugs is so bad the researchers cannot be sure if any are truly effective or safe.

In the biggest analysis yet conducted of previously published studies, researchers studied 14 antidepressants and found only one drug that seemed to be useful.

“We now have a hierarchy of pharmaceutical treatments and the only one that is better than placebo and other drugs is Prozac,” said Dr. Andrea Cipriani of the University of Oxford, one of the study authors. He said psychological treatment such as behavioral therapy should be tried before prescribing drugs, echoing the recommendations of some current guidelines.

Cipriani and colleagues analyzed 34 drug trials that included more than 5,000 patients. Of those, 22 studies were paid for by pharmaceutical companies.

The scientists called the quality of the evidence in the research they studied “very low” — so low that they said their findings weren’t enough to change how patients are treated. The authors cautioned that their results were based on flawed trials and that they couldn’t figure out whether or not the drugs were truly effective or gauge the impact of serious side effects.


READ: Can gene therapy cure depression?

Still, the review was enough to call into question the vast majority of medications used to treat young people with depression.

“There is little reason to think that any antidepressant is better than nothing for young people,” wrote Jon Jureidini of the University of Adelaide in Australia in an accompanying commentary.

Among findings on individual drugs, the researchers found that Sensoval was less effective than seven other antidepressants and a placebo and that Tofranil, Effexor and Cymbalta led to the worst side effects. When compared to five other drugs and a placebo, Effexor was linked to a risk of increased suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts.

The new study was published online Wednesday in the journal Lancet .

Even with all of the limitations the authors highlight in the study, Cipriani said doctors shouldn’t shy away from prescribing antidepressants if children need them.

“We have an effective tool,” he said of Prozac. “There is also a risk of not prescribing drugs to patients who really need them,” he said.

Major depression affects about 3 percent of children aged six to 12 years and about 6 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 18. Doctors have sometimes been wary of prescribing antidepressants for young patients because some medications can be harmful to their developing brains.

-Associated Press (Philippine Daily Inquirer

EDITORIAL - Epicenter of child slavery

With a new administration coming in, police have started taking children off the streets and enforcing curfew on minors all over the country including Metro Manila. Many of the children are sent into the streets by their parents to beg or sell items such as flower garlands. The police campaign is laudable but it must be sustained instead of being a mere flash in the pan to impress a new chief executive.

A bigger problem, involving the heinous abuse of children, however, is perpetrated behind closed doors. The top official of the United Nations Children’s Fund in the Philippines has described the country as the “epicenter” of the global live-stream child sex abuse trade and the world’s top source of child pornography. UNICEF Philippines’ Lotta Sylwander said parents themselves were often the ones who peddled their children for live sex shows to pedophiles worldwide.

The illicit trade is reportedly facilitated by Filipinos’ proficiency in English, the prevalence of Internet use and an existing network developed for Filipino migrant workers that allows the easy remittance of funds from around the world.

Many of the children are forced to perform several times a day, for about an hour at a time, in front of a webcam, according to UNICEF, which also expressed concern about the prevalence of child sex abuse perpetrated by family members themselves. Of some 7,000 cybercrimes reported every month in the country, about half involved child sex abuse, UNICEF added.

The country has tough laws against domestic violence and sexual abuse of children. As with many other laws, however, implementation leaves much to be desired, and enforcement is weakest when the victims are from poor households.

The cybercrime law continues to evolve, and there must be enough Filipino experts in information and communication technology to help law enforcers go after purveyors of online child porn. But authorities need more resources and strong political will to do their work.

“There are no limits to how cruel and gross this business is,” Sylwander said in an interview in which she described the abuse as tantamount to child slavery.Authorities must waste no time in stopping this evil industry.


-Philippine Star

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