The health issue among women and children in the Philippines that I will be discussing is prenatal care and malnourishment among children. The Philippines’ biggest goal recently has been to realign and improve their health system in regards to malnutrition and available care for expecting mothers. This has been a difficult task due to the country’s geography and income distribution. For example, several communities are located in isolated mountain regions on the islands of the Philippines and several others are in coastal areas that are hard to get to. Next, large gaps can be seen in the usage of health services among different income groups. A promising 94% of women in the most wealthy quintile gave birth with a skilled birth attendant present, while that percentage was only at 25% for the poorest. The numbers are even more spread apart when talking about a facility-based birth (like hospitals), where 84% of the richest women are in hospitals compared to 13% for the poorest. All of these contributing factors play a part in the dangerous maternal mortality ratio. In the Philippines, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals’ (MDG) target is to bring the number down to 52 deaths per 100,000 births, but the number is still at 162–or 7 women dying every 24 hours (Huntington et al., 2011). In 2006, the Philippine Department of Health launched the Women’s Health and Safe Motherhood Project 2, funded by the World Bank. They want to prepare all women for potential obstetric complications and improve maternal health to ensure the baby would be healthy too. It focuses on health infrastructure, governance, financing, and service delivery (Huntington et al., 2011).
According to UNICEF, malnutrition in the Philippines remains a serious problem. The damage to overall health, physical growth and brain development of children are seriously affected by malnutrition and often sticks with someone for their while life. It could leave the child with with lower chances of finishing school and becoming a productive adult. Specifically, iron and iodine deficiencies impact learning abilities studies have shown that iodine deficiencies could lead to 10 – 15 IQ points less than those with proper nutrition (UNICEF, 2008).
Oftentimes, the main factor impeding mothers from receiving prenatal care is their income and area of residence (urban/rural). Simple luxuries like television and radios proved to lead women to use three health services (prenatal care, immunizations, and contraceptions) more than those who didn’t have them. Those that couldn’t afford simple things like television or radio (only 23% in rural areas could) couldn’t listen to the Philippine Department of Health that sponsored several health info campaigns using T.V. (Becker, et al., 1993). The next factor that affects the availability of prenatal care for mothers is the area of residence. Travel costs to get to hospitals were double for those that lived in rural areas as compared to urban areas, and typically rural areas were more poor. If they waited cheaper way to get to a hospital, they would have hours of walking time, and that would not be easy while pregnant. This led many lower income families in rural areas to resort to barangay health stations open one day a week that offered non-physician (midwife or nurse) care (Wong et al., 2002).
Maternal and neonatal health is very important from a public health standpoint because offering these health services in more areas with lower costs could improve the disparities and gaps between those that live in rural and urban areas with largely differing income levels which not only impact the health sector of the Philippines economy. It would also be important to address this issue on a cultural basis because right now it is a part of Filipino culture to deal with the everyday inconveniences that come along with poor health care in poverty, like malnutrition, lower intelligence levels, and the spreading of diseases. If the government could change that stereotype and perspective on the Philippines that it is under-developed and and allow for a new developing culture of health, that would be so beneficial and allow for growth within the communities.
Huntington, Dale, et al. “Saúde Pública Scientific Electronic Library Online.” Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, ABRASCO – Associação Brasileira De Saúde Coletiva, 2011, www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?pid=S0042-96862012000200010. :