Press Release/18 June 2012
Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona today revealed that the Department of Health (DOH) will double its efforts in reducing maternal deaths in the country as the 2011 Family Health Survey revealed that maternal mortality rates increased from 162 to 221 between 2006 and 2011.
“The road to attaining our Millennium Development Goal (MDG) becomes even more challenging but all systems are in place,” Ona said confidently. He added that while this finding is alarming, he is not surprised that more mothers died as health services, especially for the poor, have been neglected in the past decade. He explained that maternal deaths are highly preventable through effective family planning services, antenatal care, and access to health facilities capable of handling complications.
Also, government support for the family planning program has been very limited in the past 10 years. As a result, some 6M women of which 2M are poor, reported having unmet need for modern family planning services.
Furthermore, Ona said that investments in upgrading health facilities have only started in 2010, leaving most facilities overcrowded and in poor physical state. In addition, some 5 million poor households still have to be enrolled in Philhealth to avail of its benefits.
On the other hand, child mortality has declined from 32 to 30 deaths per 1,000 live births. This moves the Philippines closer to meeting its MDG of 27 deaths per 1,000 live births. This can be attributed to the sustained efforts in child health programs such as immunization.
To reduce maternal deaths in the country, the DOH this year will distribute around P500M worth of family planning commodities and supplies. It has also provided P868M for the deployment of community health teams tasked with giving families health information and facilitating health services.
The DOH has also allocated some P6B in the upgrading of local government unit (LGU)-owned clinics and hospitals. At least 5.3 million poor families have also been enrolled to Philhealth (2011) using P12B in premium subsidies with improved out-patient and in-patient benefits.
The health chief explained that these challenges can be overcome by fasttracking the implementation of Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (universal health care). This strategy is focused in areas where the poor belonging to the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are most concentrated. These priority areas receive additional support in terms of cash and in kind grants while current levels of public health effort are sustained in the rest of the country.
“Reducing maternal deaths and meeting our MDG requires critical legislation to address structural barriers to universal health care. Hence, we need to pass the Reproductive Health Bill now, amend the midwifery and other health professions law, as well as consolidate local health systems at the provincial level,” Ona concluded.