26 September 2011

Mother and Child Health in PHL

Mother and Child
There are good news and bad news when talking about mother and child health in the Philippines. The good news is that the infant and child mortality rates have decreased dramatically over the past two decades. As a result, there is a high probability of meeting the goal of reducing infant and child mortality to 19 and 26.7, respectively, by 2015 according to the Philippines Midterm Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

From an under-5 child mortality rate of 80 per 1,000 live births in 1990, the numbers have decreased to 34 per 1,000 in 2008. Infant mortality rate has decreased as well, from 57 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 25 per 1,000 in 2008.

Unfortunately, the outlook for maternal health is not as bright, with maternal death rates decreasing at a very slow pace. From 209 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990, maternal mortality rates are down to 162 maternal deaths per 100,000 – too far from the goal of only 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.

In fact, several government and international agencies have identified this goal as the least likely to be achieved among the eight MDGs by 2015.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), more than 70 percent of all maternal deaths can be attributed to five direct causes: hemorrhage (25 percent), infection (15 percent), unsafe abortion
(13 percent), eclampsia (very high blood pressure leading to seizures – 12 percent), and obstructed labor (8%), while indirect causes include diseases that complicate pregnancy or are aggravated by pregnancy, such as malaria, anemia, and HIV.

At the root of these problems are poverty and lack of education. According to the Department of Health (DOH), maternal poverty and poor education are associated with delays in seeking, reaching, and receiving appropriate care. Over half of births occured at home, and only one third were assisted by skilled birth attendants. These delays can result in adversely affected pregnancy.

High fertility rates and high unmet need for family planning also lead to poor pregnancy outcomes and infant deaths. Data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) have shown that having too many children and having them in close succession corresponds to higher infant, child, and maternal mortality rates. According to a Guttmacher Institute study, half of the 3.1 million pregnancies occurring in the Philippines each year are unintended.

Poor nutrition is another factor that increases maternal and child mortality. Surveys have shown that many children and pregnant women do not consume enough calories, protein, iron and vitamin A. By improving mothers’ access to good nutrition and health care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period, needless deaths of mothers and infants can be prevented.

If not addressed promptly, undernutrition leads to various health problems, including poor physical and mental development, and decreased resistance to infections, among many others. Babies born to undernourished, sickly mothers are prone to death, illness and disability, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and visual and hearing impairment.