In the last few weeks, the country has seen the return of supposedly eradicated illnesses such as polio and diphtheria; and not too long ago we have seen a fresh outbreak of measles despite the funding that has been made available to the Department of Health. Some say this is the impact coming from the Dengvaxia issue and made people wary of vaccination; and that consequentially the being overly cautious of such led to the outbreak and return of what has been completely and totally addressed back then.
While mindset is also a critical factor in ensuring sustainability of a health program (the thinking that we need to get our pregnant women and babies vaccinated to protect them from avoidable diseases that otherwise would have irreversible effects), we would like to focus on the idea that we should be “back to basics” too as far as health and overall nutrition and wellness are concerned.
It is the price of development (and to a certain extent, technology) that we have to pay for: instead of cooking healthy meals and eating a well balanced diet, a lot of us choose to have food delivered or we opt to buy from convenience stores nearby simply because it is accessible and it saves us time and energy. We live with the downside: as processed food generally contains a lot of sugar, we live with the possibility of acquiring diabetes, for example, and hence we live with the possibility of taking medication for life, and then we try to adjust our eating habits. It is a vicious cycle, but for some of us, life is short and that we live to eat.
All sectors of society should step up in providing access to good health, or at least a sustainable way of being healthy, such as having access to goods that provide for more nutritional value, for example.
One of the things that the government has been successful is in the passage of the First 1000 Days Law, or more commonly known as the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act.” The law requires a multi-sectoral effort to scale up both local and national health and nutrition programs via an integrated strategy to address maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition for the first 1,000 days of life. The 1,000 days refer to the period from a woman’s pregnancy up to the first two years of an infant’s life, thereby giving adequate attention to both mother and child as the country builds a nation of healthy families and citizens. What this translates to is that we should see our DoH, Department of Agriculture and the National Nutrition Council working strategically and aligning with different local government units and other agencies to come up with a workable plan to address the nutritional needs of our society. Focus shall be on women and children with themes centered on nutrition improvement, among others.
This is also an opportune time to study and assess how other nations have done similar programs for us to get best practices and see how the same can be adapted in the Philippines. There are many rural areas in the Philippines that could possibly benefit on how similar places in Africa, for example, have implemented programs to combat under- and malnutrition.
Nutriset, a health and nutrition company based in France, has been successful in addressing nutrition problems in Africa and is bringing its advocacy and social programs in the Philippines in an effort to align with the direction of the government, especially on the passage of the First 1000 Days Law. Its main advocacy is to provide nutritional autonomy for all and leverages on products that have been tested and proven to address the nutritional deficiencies of both mothers and children in developing countries. There are ongoing efforts in some of our rural communities in the country led by Nutriset to help address these nutritional requirements and we should see this scaling up not just at the grassroots level but both at local and national levels in support of the government’s efforts.
Back to basics, back to square one, back to where it begins.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.