A(H1N1) outbreak, Makati health services and Mayor Binay

Our health sector now is challenged with the influenza A(H1N1) virus affecting many Filipinos. The Department of Health had already made several advisories and steps to solve the current problem. I don’t have the figures as to how many, as of press time, have become positive to the virus and how many have already been treated.

This is alarming to the various publics. This type of virus can easily be transferred, especially in public places and public institutions where there is an influx of people. This pressing problem brings my mind to review my notes on programs and policies of the government as regards the health sector. I can say that there is a lot to improve as to how to anticipate everything, even the coming of influenza A(H1N1) virus or any other man-made or natural calamities.

This situation reminds me of the best practices of the City Government of Makati under the exemplary leadership of its mayor, Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay.

At the onset, the City of Makati had immediately responded to the alarming condition of the Makati constituents. Mayor Binay abruptly convened the City health officials and personnel as well as the Makati community to address the A(H1N1). All City Hall employees got their free anti-flu vaccines. In fact, the City Government of Makati was among the first local governments to respond to the A(H1N1). It immediately activated its A(H1N1) Plan.

Again, it reminds me of the services and programs being implemented by the City Government of Makati pertaining to health. It has been initiating the Expanded Program on Immunization that covers seven childhood diseases, namely, measles, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis. The vaccines are administered for free by barangay health centers for newborns and babies up to 48 months. Regular immunization campaigns are conducted at health centers, in schools and in the neighborhood.

As a result, the city has enjoyed zero incidence of polio, diphtheria and neonatal tetanus for around ten years now, while it remained measles-free throughout 2007. Based on city records, the number of measles cases in Makati has been significantly declining – from 109 in 2003 to 38 in 2004, from 22 in 2005 to only three cases in 2006, and none at all last year.

If this trend continues, the city government will certainly realize its goal of eradicating measles, along with other common childhood diseases, in Makati by 2010.

The vaccines being administered by barangay health centers for free include BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) to prevent tuberculosis among newborns up to 12 months old, OPV (oral polio vaccines) from six weeks to 12 months, DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) from six weeks to 12 months, and measles from nine months to 48 months. Upon birth, the Hepa-B vaccine, supplied by the Makati Health department, is administered for free in city-run and private lying-in clinics in the city.

Wednesday are reserved especially for the immunization of babies at the health centers.

Makati also has a dental immunization program, the first of its kind in the country, in all of the city’s health centers. Launched in September 2006, it is aimed at promoting health teeth and gums of infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers (6 months to 5 years old) thru the application of fluoride varnish their teeth. The varnish is most effective when applied on newly-erupted baby teeth, as it would help prevent the onset of tooth decay. As a result, children are better assured of a healthy growth of permanent teeth eventually.

The health centers in Makati are also open to render dental immunization to children for free from Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am to 12 noon, and from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

With these health programs, I can say that Makati people have healthy lives and prosperous living. Because of a responsive local government, under the good mayor of Makati, local residents and Makati constituents are enjoying the benefits of a great health program. Certainly, Makati’s best practices when it comes to health services have brought significant effects to combating common health problems and arising health challenges.

From these we can learn a lot from Makati and the governance of Mayor Binay. We can adopt several pro-active projects and programs and implement these to other local governments in particular and the entire country in general.

Mayor Binay is a firm believer, from what we can surmise, that a healthy citizenry leads to a healthy and prosperous nation. A healthy local government is a health country, so to speak.

Kung nagawa sa Makati, naniniwala akong magagawa rin ito ni Mayor Binay sa buong bansa. That’s the real output that benefits the people from all walks of life. There are bases of the executive, managerial and leadership capability of Mayor Binay. The health sector is just one of the living proofs.

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