“We’re not letting mothers die” –project of DOH and Zuellig Foundation involving Mayors PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 00:00

“We’re not letting mothers die,” is the battle cry of the Department of Health (DOH) when it hit the ground running last year with a program aimed to make sure the Philippines meets its maternal health target under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The latest Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) reported is 221 as of 2011, nowhere near the MDG target of 52 by 2015.  But the DOH is not about to let the country miss the target even if it is just a year away.

This is a vital statistic that all our government officials should be fully aware of and be directly involved in hitting down maternal deaths. They must implement health programs that save the lives of women giving births particularly those belonging in the marginalized sector and in far-flung rural municipalities. Admittedly, for years, this has not been given a full attention. It seems it became a “fact” that poor child-bearing women have higher risk of giving birth.

In a speech of Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona and delivered on his behalf by DOH Director Nestor Santiago during a DOH learning forum in Antipolo City, the health chief said that “despite numerous efforts, inequity still exists and access to quality health facilities and services are still difficult, especially for the poor and the most vulnerable segment of the population, the mothers and children.”

But I am glad to tell Pep Talk readers there is a private foundation helping out in equipping our local government officials have knowledge about proper health management and how to run health programs effectively. Guide our government officials, help them understand better health programs, let them realize to be more accountable and directly be involved.

To intensify its campaign to achieve the MDGs, the DOH partnered with the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) last year to implement the latter’s change strategy that focused on improving the health leadership and governance of mayors and municipal health officers since ZFF’s experience saw immediate declines in MMR and IMR following the adoption of the strategy.

The partnership program, “Health Leadership and Governance Program (HLGP),” began in August last year and will run until 2015. As of last February, mayors and municipal health officers of 263 out of the targeted 609 municipalities have undergone the first training module under HLGP. According to Dr. Ona, the program has so far resulted in having mayors who now realize that they must not only acknowledge existing health problems but must also take the extra step of being part of the solution.

At the forum, DOH regional directors presented before Dr. Ona their respective region’s MMR and IMR as well as their specific plans to help provinces and municipalities reduce their mortalities and meet the MDGs. DOH Regional Director Dr. Nimfa Torizo presented programs and projects lauded by top DOH and ZFF as laudable.

On constructing more facilities, Dr. Ona said that the government, through its Health Facility Enhancement Program, is not only looking to build more facilities but also to make sure “these are functioning, complete with manpower and services and accredited by Philhealth.” And once these are in place, mayors must “issue policies and ordinances that would support the use of these facilities, encourage the poor to avail of the services through incentives and establish a functional referral system in their community.”

I was personally invited twice before at Lantaka Hotel by DOH-9 Dr. Agnes Fernando last month and witnessed myself  Zamboanga del Norte mayors and their health officers planning together health programs that they deem will work in their municipalities. DOH and ZFF is optimistic that with the collective efforts of municipality leaders the MDG target by 2015 will be hit. Maternal mortality will go down because everybody cares and have acted on it. 

The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) reinforces the idea of healthcare beyond medical missions and dole outs. It chooses to change the landscape of social responsibility by arming health leaders with the information and skills to improve the health of the poor. ZFF stands as a defined manifestation of the Zuellig family’s desire to sustain a legacy of making healthcare an operative factor of nation building and improving the quality of life for all Filipinos.

By Dante Corteza

Proverbs 21:13 . “Whoever closes the cry of the poor his ear to will himself call out and not be answered.”