MANILA, Philippines--For just P25 per pupil, the Department of Education (DepEd) aims to cut by half the incidence of infectious diseases among pre-school and elementary school students and stop absenteeism.
Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said on Tuesday that DepEd recently pilot-tested in Tarlac a comprehensive oral health care and general hygiene program for school children to keep them in school by reducing infectious diseases by 30 to 50 percent and dental problems by 40 to 50 percent.
Lapus said that toothache, diarrhea, respiratory ailments and soil-transmitted worm infections were prevalent in pre-school and school children ?causing absenteeism and dropping-out of school.?
?It is socially accepted, often neglected when it fact it can be prevented at a low cost," Lapus said in a statement.
?These diseases are considered ?normal,? despite their huge impact on the physical and mental development of children, their school performance and their quality of life,? he added.
Lapus said most of the diseases were caused by hygiene problems and studies by DepEd showed that these diseases could be controlled by ?simple, cost-effective preventive measures implemented on a mass scale in schools and day care centers.?
To this end, DepEd partnered with local government units and the private sector for its Essential Health Care Package (EHCP) program, Lapus said.
It was introduced in 2008 and the program has benefited some 600,000 children in 20 provinces. When it was first launched in selected schools, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself demonstrated proper hand washing to school children, the education chief said.
For school year 2009-2010, the EHCP program of the DepEd?s Health and Nutrition Center had its soft launch in Cristo Rey East Elementary School in Capas, Tarlac, he added.
Lapus said the package, to be distributed to pre-school up to Grade 6 students, contained a toothbrush, a toothpaste and a soap, and cost only P25 per student.
?We will continue deworming and hand washing activities as well as distributing oral health care package until we can make personal hygiene and oral health an unshakeable habit among our school children,? Lapus said.
He said participating schools would conduct daily hand washing with soap and water. A nail-cutter will also be made available in classrooms to keep the fingernails groomed.
Daily supervised tooth brushing drills using fluoride toothpaste will be done in schools while deworming tablets will be provided by the Department of Health and administered by school health personnel twice a year, according to Lapus.
The National Oral Health Survey (NOHS) conducted by the DepEd from November 2005 to February 2006 revealed that nearly all school children had dental caries, with an average of nine decayed teeth in every mouth.
Lapus said the school system's well-organized administrative structure and teaching personnel have been tapped to implement health programs ?focusing on the behavior change.?
The principals, health personnel and teachers will undergo orientation on EHCP for implementation and monitoring, according to Lapus.
?These health improvement measures are intended to increase school attendance, improve school performance and help the government achieve its Millennium Development Goals,? Lapus added.