D.O.S.T.: All-around policy approach means better health for Filipinos

Sunday, June 24, 2018 02:17 AM    Views : 188by:Edd K. Usman

In Photo: National Scientist Ernesto Domingo and PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya

Story & photos by Edd K. Usman / Special to the BusinessMirror

In order to improve the health of Filipinos, the approach should be one that is all-around, meaning all government policies and programs should take into consideration their impact on health.

There are reasons for a holistic approach that should be adopted by the national government.

Scientists and researchers of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Philippines of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) gave this recommendation recently, saying the state of health of people are influenced by other factors that are not health-related per se.

It is called the "social determinants of health" for which the DOST-NAST held a conference recently to address the factors and how to incorporate them in government policies. The event was at the National Summit on Social Determinants of Health 2: Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by Integrating Health in All Policies held in Makati City.

In an interview with the BusinessMirror, National Scientist Ernesto O. Domingo identified five of the major social determinants that have important bearing in attaining better health for Filipinos. They are education, jobs, culture, governance and environment.

"In other words, they are not health at all, but they determine what configuration of health care will come out. Very simple," said Domingo, a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee in 2013.

Domingo explained. "In a society where income is high, naturally the ability to secure health services is better. So that comes out as a better health status. It is not a 100-percent one-to-one correspondence but it is a trend," he pointed out.

He cited education. " Educating mothers is a better approach to correcting malnutrition than just feeding the children," he said. "A family comes to the mother [for cooked food] and decides it is better nutrition for children [that way] than a feeding program."

Domingo emphasized that the intervention, in this case, is not medical.

On environment, the national scientist said that when there are good spaces for walking, people are healthier. It has nothing to do with health per se, but it is about providing good roads or parks.

"Definitely, jobs [influence health]," he said.

"For example, lack of jobs forces families to seek employment elsewhere. What happens to the children left by the mothers? Certainly, [they are] less cared for and, therefore, more prone to illnesses, etc.

"[The illnesses] are not only physical but mental for those left behind by their mothers than those whose mothers are here. Seeking jobs has an impact on children's health," Domingo said.

Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), agreed with Domingo's assessment.

"The social determinants of [good] health are truly very important, intertwined, integrated, embedded, unified with the other existing plans, policies and programs," he said.

Montoya said integrating health to all policies is very important in the attainment of the SDGs. The PCHRD is the national coordinating agency for health research.

"That is really the solution, that is what we want to happen," said Montoya, referring to the conference's proposal addressed to the government to integrate health in all policies.

He cited the conference as an example where all the sectors were present and involved to make them aware on how important is integrating health in all government policies.

"If we look at environment per se, there is no health involved. But health should be part of the environmental policy. Waste management will come in; its impact on health. So in all of that health should be integrated," he pointed out.

Montoyo acknowledged that PCHRD might be biased being in the health sector. "But it should really be part of all the policies being put up because, eventually, at the end of the day, it will be the people who will be affected."

Since the people need health, housing, food and job, all sectors must be involved. The mayors, governors and national government executives must be engaged and involved so they will know the importance of integrating health into all policies.

There is one problem, though. The formulation of policies are not integrated.

"For example, on environment, we only look at environment. On health care, we only look at health care. We do not look at the chain of events, like having a holistic approach," Montoya said.

Meanwhile, Domingo cited NAST's mandate as the highest policy-making body for government, with its six divisions, including health and others.

He said out of the meetings or conferences being conducted by NAST have produced many policy decisions.


S & T Trivia

" Rodolfo Arambulo of Laguna, Philippines developed Multishock, a bullet type that increases the firepower and stopping power of an ordinary gun with multiple hits in a single shot. It is considered as the first of its kind in the world. "

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