March 1, 2019
In remote, coastal areas in Eastern Visayas, previously stricken by Typhoon Yolanda, it is common to see a community health worker tracking the pregnancy of mothers.
Health officials from these towns have made efforts to contribute to reducing maternal and child mortality rate. They encourage mothers to give birth in health facilities and record their pregnancy data.
With assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Eastern Visayas benefited from technical cooperation projects, namely Maternal and Child Health Project SIKAT (Strengthening, Integration, Knowledgeable, Accessible, Teamwork) 2006-2010 and Strengthening Maternal and Child Health Service in Eastern Visayas 2010-2016.
Also under JICA, health officials and representatives from this region attended a series of training in Japan from 2010 to 2017 to study Japan's maternal and child health (MCH) practices and policy implementation, public-private partnership to promote rural health, and health planning among others.
"It was educational for us to see places in Japan where MCH system has been successful and we learned how important it is for health teams to have well-defined roles in delivering MCH services," said Wilma Matutina of the DOH-Eastern Visayas Center for Health Development.
Health officials from Eastern Visayas visited Kobe University, Wakayama, and Nagano Prefectures, and Okinawa International Center among others to study areas on MCH policy, and best practices that can be applied in the Philippines.
Under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, reducing maternal and child deaths is among the priorities to address one of its key pillar towards increasing the Philippines' economic growth potential. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the Philippines failed to meet its targets on reducing maternal and infant mortality rates under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Hence, under the current Philippine development goals to achieve poverty reduction under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030, the government has been working to reduce maternal and infant mortality through universal health programs among other strategies.
But in Eastern Visayas, training participants were proud that the knowledge they had from the JICA trainings are helping them make a dent in improving MCH in the region. In Dulag, Leyte for example, the community has sustained zero maternal deaths for the past 10 years with help from JICA trainings and MCH-related projects as well as partnership with local government units (LGUs) on implementing ordinances that helped reduce maternal and infant mortality.
The training in Japan, according to the participants, also drove home an important point on evidence-based health planning after visiting the Okinawa International Center. Participants learned the importance of "using data in prioritizing resources and activities" to strengthen MCH.
Dr. Ma. Teresa Caidic, participant from Leyte Provincial Health Office added that "promoting stakeholder collaboration to disseminate information and build a strong health referral system" can be implemented in the Philippines to address MCH.
The MCH trainings were part of JICA's continuing assistance to the Philippines' health sector and capacity building support since the 1960s. They are part of the bilateral aid agency's Knowledge Co-Creation Program (KCCP) that also aims to share Japan's expertise and knowhow to address a partner country's development issues.
Demonstration during a skilled birth attendant training in Japan