DOH, World Vision sign breastfeeding monitoring,promotion agreement

The Department of Health (DOH) and World Vision Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement in which the two bodies would work together to monitor local government unit compliance with the "Milk Code".
The Milk Code included both Executive Order No. 51 and Republic Act No. 10028 or the “National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Related Products."
Both EO 51 and RA 10028 encouraged workplaces and communities to provide nursing mothers access to lactation stations and support to help them breastfeed up to two years or beyond.
"The implementation of the Milk Code has really been a challenge in this country," Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said during the signing ceremony at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City on Friday.
The DOH and World Vision monitoring effort will be enacted through a joint project - the Mother-Baby Friendly Philippines (MBFP or just MBF).
The compliance monitoring project has three platforms: an Android and iOS-based app, the MBF website, and the MBFP hotline.
The website boasts a quick and simple navigation, useful hotlines, and a user-friendly reporting scheme in addition to breastfeeding resources.
Users of the apps are afforded the same features with a unique, focused UI and with a texting mechanism can be used by anyone.
Malabon, Manila, and Quezon City are the pilot sites for the project, which is rooted in World Vision's Crowd-Based Monitoring of Milk Code Compliance (CMMCC) project.
Breastfeeding is one of the DOH's main advocacies and the first adopted by Ubial, as the first program she handled in her career was a breastfeeding program in 1989.
"On June 20 (1989), I was sent to Fabella Memorial Hospital for my 11-day training on mother-baby friendly hospital and lactation management, education training," Ubial recalled.
"Something we make a mainstream and a norm in Philippine society is breastfeeding our babies, our children is actually, supposed to be what comes natural and what should be practiced," she continued.

Don't shame, don't force
As much as the government, health institutions, and moms promote breastfeeding as the "gold standard" for infant health, breastfeeding advocate Christine Bersonala-Babao said badgering mothers would not work.
"Do not intimidate the mothers," Babao advised. "Sasabihin mo lang in a very [calm] way na, 'Uy, ito yung benefits sa akin.' Pero hindi mo siya pipilitin, 'wag mo ifo-force."
Babao said that it was very difficult to convince people at the "grassroots level" of the benefits of breastfeeding, as they were more concerned with putting food on the table, or else they would rather opt for the supposed convenience of formulas.
Aside from monitoring, MBF would also promote breastfeeding through testimonies from breastfeeding moms by infographics.
Ubial hoped that the initiative could be the start of better breastfeeding rates in the country, which remained abysmal, according to 2015 data, as "only 34% of Filipino infants younger than six months are exclusively breastfed."
"All of us need to work together in synchronizing our acts to realize our shared vision," Ubial urged. —GMA News

Duterte says Sereno 'sitting on' decision on RH 'medicines'

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte again slammed Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for supposedly "sitting on" decisions on contraceptives, leading to a delay in the full implementation of the Reproductive Health law.
"We already bought the medicines, expecting that it would, you know, be needed by government so we can already start it and until now, it’s two years ago, the medicines have expired, Sereno is sitting on it," said Duterte on Tuesday, August 29, in a mix of English and Filipino.
"What’s the problem, ma’am? We spent for it, we bought the medicines only for them to expire," he added.
If the Supreme Court had only been decisive from the start, he claimed, the government would not have purchased the "medicines" and would have thus avoided wasting taxpayer's money.
"A simple presentence would say if you are going to deny it, 'We denied it because it is an abortive substance.' Until now, nothing," said Duterte.
It was a repeat of his remarks at his second State of the Nation Address when he blamed the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the SC for compromising the effectivity of the RH law.
The TRO, issued by the SC in 2015, temporarily stopped the health department's distribution and sale of implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years.
The High Court also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from "granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices."
This has led many to believe the TRO applies, not just to implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT, but to contraceptive pills.

Blame game
Sereno, in response to Duterte's SONA remarks, said that the ball is in the FDA's court, not the SC's.
She said that the TRO will be lifted when the FDA rules that the two implant brands are not abortifacient. This could happen sooner if only the Department of Health would conduct summary hearings.
But the FDA reacted saying that the TRO ordered it to revise all its procedures on reviewing all contraceptives and to decide on all applications based on the new procedure.
This has the "net effect of burdening and restraining the FDA from performing its mandate and regulatory functions in a timely and efficient manner," said the FDA, according to a PhilStar article.
The agency also refuted the SC's clarification that the TRO only covers the two implant brands.
To the FDA, the TRO's "language" orders it to suspend certification and re-certification of all contraceptives.

What's at stake
If the TRO is not lifted soon, almost 90% of contraceptive brands will no longer be available by 2018, making the RH law "ineffective." according to the Commission on Population (PopCom)
With the expiration of the FDA certificates, PopCom said couples will have limited brands of contraceptives to choose from.
"Filipino women will be left with a limited number of expensive products by then as the more affordable products will lose their certificates in 2017," the commission said.
Meanwhile, the subdermal implants bought by government and are now on stock in the health department's warehouses "will all go to waste" because these will expire by 2018. –

CA health program for youth under threat

SAN FRANCISCO -- When US senators return from their recess at the end of the month, they would have to pass a budget by the Sept. 30 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown. Among the many items on the table, health care has been the centerpiece of the discussion.

Medi-Cal and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) together cover more than 5.7 million children in California. CHIP, a 20-year-old program, covers children whose families are low-income but not poor enough to qualify for Medi-Cal. Its funding set to expire on Sept. 30 unless it is renewed.

President of The Children’s Partnership Mayra Alvarez said cuts to the health care program would impact millions families and their children.

“Medi-Cal and CHIP are lifelines for families who cannot afford insurance on their own,” Alvarez said during a telephone conference on Aug. 10.

Among the many benefits children receive from the two programs are free preventive services, including dental care, vision exams and mental health services.

Since May of last year, Medi-Cal, which is funded by California taxpayers, has covered 190,000 undocumented children under 19.

According Andie Patterson, who is the director of Government Affairs with California Primary Care Association (CPCA), cuts to Medi-Cal could also result in a 30 percent funding reduction to the 2,800 non-profit clinics that are in the organization.

“Any threats to Medi-Cal undermines the survival of health centers,” Patterson said.

According to Patterson, CPCA clinics are urging their patients to put pressure on their federal legislators to not
upend Obamacare.

Mascots, tarps employed by DOH to promote nationwide smoking ban

Department of Health (DOH)Spokesperson Eric Tayag on visited various establishment with a slew of mascots in tow to promote the nationwide smoking ban.
DOH employees roamed the streets and visited public establishments like the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School in Manila dressed as packs of cigarettes, the labels of which prominently feature the health problems caused by smoking e.g. cancer and gangrene.
Tarpaulins were plastered on public spaces covered by the smoking ban.
Tayag and DOH officials were also spotted making an X with their fingers — a hand sign to further promote the campaign against smoking.
President Rodrigo Duterte last May signed Executive Order 26, which prohibits smoking in "enclosed public places and public conveyances" among other anti-smoking measures.
EO 26 takes effect on July 23,Sunday. Violators will be fined at least P500, while establishments may lose their license to operate. —GMA News

Social isolation, loneliness could be greater threat to public health than obesity

Loneliness and social isolation may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity, and their impact has been growing and will continue to grow, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

"Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need -- crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment," said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. "Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly."

Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP's Loneliness Study. In addition, the most recent U.S. census data shows more than a quarter of the population lives alone, more than half of the population is unmarried and, since the previous census, marriage rates and the number of children per household have declined.

"These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness," said Holt-Lunstad.

To illustrate the influence of social isolation and loneliness on the risk for premature mortality, Holt-Lunstad presented data from two meta-analyses. The first involved 148 studies, representing more than 300,000 participants, and found that greater social connection is associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of early death. The second study, involving 70 studies representing more than 3.4 million individuals primarily from North America but also from Europe, Asia and Australia, examined the role that social isolation, loneliness or living alone might have on mortality. Researchers found that all three had a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death, one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors such as obesity.

"There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators," said Holt-Lunstad. "With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a 'loneliness epidemic.' The challenge we face now is what can be done about it."

Holt-Lunstad recommended a greater priority be placed on research and resources to tackle this public health threat from the societal to the individual level. For instance, greater emphasis could be placed on social skills training for children in schools and doctors should be encouraged to include social connectedness in medical screening, she said. Additionally, people should be preparing for retirement socially as well as financially, as many social ties are related to the workplace, she noted, adding that community planners should make sure to include shared social spaces that encourage gathering and interaction, such as recreation centers and community gardens.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Over 2 million Pinoys blind, sight-impaired

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332,150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2,179,733. File
MANILA, Philippines - Over two million people nationwide are blind or suffering from poor vision, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332,150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2,179,733.

Of the total number of bilaterally blind, 33 percent or about 109,609 cases were due to cataract while 25 percent was caused by error in refraction (EOR). Fourteen percent was due to glaucoma.

About 937, 285 or 43 percent of those suffering from bilateral low vision was due to EOR, 34 percent or 741,109 was caused by cataract while the rest was attributed to glaucoma and other eye diseases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, with 39 million blind and 246 million with low vision.

Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness globally followed by glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration as the secondary causes.

Health experts said blindness or severe visual impairment results in reduced functional ability and loss of self-esteem and contributes toward the reduction of quality of life.

The disability from visual impairment has considerable economic implications with loss of productivity and income and can lead to poverty and social dependency, experts said.

To address the problem, the government drafted a new National Policy on the Prevention Program on Blindness that is more responsive to changing trends in the prevalence of eye diseases.

The DOH also spearheaded yesterday the annual observance of the Sight Saving Month with the theme “Universal Eye Health: No More Avoidable Blindness.”

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said this year’s theme is aimed at strengthening public awareness on the importance of proper eye care and promote the prevention of avoidable blindness, which is now considered a serious public health issue of global magnitude.

Ubial said early detection and preventive care can help keep the eyes healthy and avoid common causes of blindness.

Thus, the DOH’s current thrust is to integrate eye care into public health programs at the local government unit level for continued advocacy and promotion of comprehensive eye care with focus on avoidable blindness.

She said the development of the Community Eye Health Program (CEHP), particularly at the primary level, district and provincial settings will be able to make most of the shared referral and service delivery network from barangay health stations, rural health units up to tertiary hospitals.

Aside from several provinces in the regions that have adopted the CEHP, the model is being expanded to the poorest provinces like Eastern Samar, Leyte and Surigao.

Population and individual eye care services focusing on the prevention and management of avoidable blindness (cataract, EOR, childhood blindness, other emerging eye diseases) at each stage of the life cycle shall be provided through the functional service delivery network (SDN).

Through the SDN, families especially the poor and marginalized are profiled, navigated, referred and arrangements made with health providers at the different levels of care.

“I would like to assure the public that DOH is serious in its mandate and commitment to ensure that every Filipino, particularly the poor, indigent and marginalized has access to affordable and quality eye care,” Ubial stressed.

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