After graft, Aquino fights diseaseBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
After declaring an all-out war on corruption, the Aquino administration this time will fight to keep all Filipinos alive and healthy.
President Benigno Aquino on Monday trained his administration’s guns on the leading causes of infant mortality and “catastrophic illnesses” among adults as part of his goal to achieve universal health coverage for all Filipinos.
At Heroes Hall in Malacañang, Mr. Aquino presided over the ceremonial vaccination of children against rotavirus, the common cause of diarrhea among infants and children below the age of 5.
The President and Health Secretary Enrique Ona also launched PhilHealth’s “Z Health Benefits” which will cover patients afflicted with breast cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer and kidney problems.
The rotavirus vaccination this year will target some 700,000 infants, particularly in poorer communities as these areas “have the highest morbidity and mortality rates for diarrheal diseases,” said Ona.
Barangays have them
As part of the Department of Health’s expanded national immunization program for children, rotavirus vaccines have been distributed to barangay health centers nationwide to benefit infants aged one-and-a-half years up to three-and-a-half years.
Rotavirus infects the bowels, resulting in the deaths of about 600,000 children and over two million hospitalizations worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
The President reported that 3,500 Filipino children die every year from rotavirus, the second leading cause of death among infants.
Severe infection of rotavirus gastroenteritis causes “severe dehydrating diarrhea,” which can result in death.
In his speech, Ona pointed out that the rotavirus vaccination program was the first in Southeast Asia, adding that the life-saving vaccine was a “game-changer as it promises to protect children from severe diarrhea.”
“It is projected that at least 25 percent of diarrheal deaths will be prevented annually, or roughly 1,000 more children surviving past their fifth birthday,” said Ona.
On PhilHealth’s “Z Benefit” package, Ona said this would prevent premature deaths from “medically and economically catastrophic diseases or conditions such as cancers.”
“The package is called ‘Z Benefit’ as it best describes not only the last letter of the alphabet but the end point of one’s health when afflicted by catastrophic illnesses that need prolonged hospitalization and very expensive treatments,” said Ona.
For complete treatment of any of these four medical procedures, the package cost ranges from P100,000 to P210,000.
In his keynote speech, Mr. Aquino underscored the role of public health in winning the war against poverty.
“We must also turn our attention to public health and as we focus on the health of our country, the economy, government, the overall health of all Filipinos also remains a top priority.
“We want our people to be empowered individuals capable of standing on their own two feet: Strong, healthy and skilled men and women who can take advantage of the opportunities that life affords them. And all of you in the arena of public health are vital to this goal,” he said.
The President said the universal healthcare system would provide Filipinos with quality and appropriate healthcare for Type A illnesses like diarrhea, to Type Z illnesses like cancer.
“Today, we launch the rotavirus vaccines which are expected to contribute to our goal of safeguarding the health and well-being of Filipino children.
For this year, 700,000 infants from families listed in our national household targeting system will be vaccinated,” he said.
Mr. Aquino also pointed to “catastrophic illnesses—illnesses that are literally catastrophic to oneself, to one’s financial situation, and even to one’s emotional and psychological well-being.”
“Our people should not try to overcome these illnesses alone and this idea is at the heart of our universal healthcare program,” said the President.
For 2012, PhilHealth has allotted P3 billion for the Z Benefit package, P1.3 billion of which will be used to treat 12,000 people afflicted with breast cancer, childhood leukemia and prostate cancer.