Govt slammed for ‘palliative’ approach in fighting A(H1N1)
MANILA, Philippines- If it is not adding insult to injury, it is causing double jeopardy. Non-government organizations working in the health sector are criticizing the Philippine government’s “palliative” approach to combating the fast spread of Influenza A(H1N1) infection, which has so far stricken over 300 Filipinos.
The Health Action Information Network (HAIN) and the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) are one in saying that because the government has failed to address poverty, it has made Filipinos more vulnerable to communicable but supposedly preventable diseases such as influenza.
HAIN executive director Dr. Delen de la Paz claims that poor Filipinos are dying, not because of fatal diseases, but because of simple illnesses that have gotten worse overtime because they do not have money to make themselves well nourished and naturally resistant to ailments.
“For instance, bakit ba nagiging pneumonia ang influenza? It starts with viral infection that is supposed to be self-limiting in seven days. Pero dahil walang pambili ng gamot, nagkakaroon ng secondary bacterial infection. Lumalala na ang sakit pero nagtatrabaho pa rin. Ang sweldo kulang pang pambili ng pagkain, so paano na ang gamot?” De la Paz told GMANews.TV in an interview.
[For instance, why does influenza develop into pneumonia? It starts with viral infection that is supposed to be self-limiting in seven days. But because there’s no money to buy medicine, secondary bacterial infection develops. The disease worsens but the individual has no other choice but to continue working. His salary is not even enough to buy food, so how could he buy medicine?]
Influenza and morbidity
Influenza is the fourth leading cause of morbidity in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health. Eight of the top 10 morbidity-causing diseases in the country including influenza, are all infectious but quite preventable illnesses. The seven others are pneumonia, bronchitis, diarrhea, tuberculosis, chicken pox, malaria and dengue.
The prevalence of infectious but preventable diseases is a reflection of the government’s failure to deliver preventive health services to the poor, according to Dr. Gene Nisteros, HEAD vice-chairman.
He particularly questions the DOH’s advice to individuals suspected of having contracted A(H1N1) to go on self-quarantine, saying the policy is tantamount to the relinquishment of the government’s role to patients themselves.
Nisteros also claims that the DOH lacks protocol on how to prevent the spread of the disease. “For instance, why would you tell a sick individual to go home, when on his way home he would expose himself to many people who could contract the disease?”
He says the government could not even provide the public a list of health institutions that can admit patients suspected of having A(H1N1) infection. “If for instance, the outbreak happens in far-flung areas, where could people go? What should they do first?”
De la Paz meanwhile finds the DOH’s A(H1N1) prevention measures as superficial.
The DOH has advised Filipinos to increase body resistance to A(H1N1) infection through observing the following lifestyles: have at least eight hours of sleep a day; be physically active; manage stress; drink plenty of fluids; and eat nutritious foods.
“Tell this to the overworked but underpaid Filipino. Tell this to thousands of hungry and malnourished people whose body defenses, even before the onslaught of A(H1N1), could no longer fight simple diseases because of poverty,” De la Paz says.
The income of the top 10 percent of families in the Philippines is 19 times bigger than that of the poorest 10 percent, based on the government’s 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey. The same survey shows that every Filipino who is within the poorest 1.7 million families is trying to make both ends meet with an average income of P18 per day.
Out of every 100 families nationwide, 20 families do not have access to safe drinking water; 14 do not have sanitary toilets; 20 do not have electricity; 30 live in weak houses; 15 have family heads who are not gainfully employed, and 60 are not Philhealth members, according to the government’s 2004 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in June 19th 2009