25 February 2013

MSD & ZFF: A Partnership for Mother's Health

Maternal Health
Data from government agencies showed that the ratio of maternal mortality in 2006 was 162 deaths for every 100,000 women. The international commitment of the Philippines seeks to bring this figure down to 52 per 100,000 by 2015.

The 2011 Family Planning Survey, on the other hand, showed us a pretty grim picture and gave us a reason to believe that the country will not be able to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals. From the 2006 figures, the ratio increased to 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 in 2011. Some may argue that it is not a valid comparison by using statistical terms and significance of values jargon, but the fact cannot be hidden from the public – women and mothers in the country need help fast.

The message for help cannot be made much clearer when the Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona delivered a speech to help launch a public-private partnership for the improvement of maternal health in 21 poor Samar Island municipalities. Called the "MSD for Mothers and ZFF Community Health Partnership: The Joint Development Initiative," this is a partnership between global healthcare company Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), with the support of the DOH.

"In the Philippines, the grim reality is that the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is quite alarming, wherein the country is expected to fall behind the MDG 5 target. From current statistics, the maternal mortality ratio is 221, a far cry from the United Nation’s goal of 52," said MSD Asia Pacific President Patrick Bergstedt.

That women continue to die due to preventable pregnancy or childbirth complications is what made MSD and ZFF decide to work together in one of the country's poorest provinces. Aside from being poor, chosen municipalities for this project are also considered geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs).

According to ZFF chairman Roberto Romulo, "GIDA municipalities pose unique and more difficult challenges to improving healthcare. Defined as communities with marginalized population physically and economically separated from the mainstream society, these areas are usually isolated due to distance, weather conditions, and transportation difficulties and are characterized by poor health outcomes."

Romulo also noted that in 2010, the collective MMR of the Samar provinces was 111 while the MMR of GIDA municipalities in the province was 392.

Under the partnership, 63 local chief executives, municipal health officers and community leaders from the 21 LGUs will be trained and mentored on leadership and governance, and local health systems development. At least 34 health leaders and professionals from the region and provinces will be trained to give technical assistance to the 21 LGUs. Using the Essential Intrapartum and Newborn Care Initiative of the WHO, 102 midwives and 1,862 BHW’s will be trained and supervised to increase community participation and improve health-seeking behaviour of locals.