SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Re-elected Quezon City Rep. Alfred D. Vargas III has expressed concern over the the country’s increasing maternal mortality ratio in recent years.
“It is disturbing to note that maternal health, as part of the country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is not so encouraging,” Rep. Vargas noted.
Insisting that the government should improve maternal health in the country, Vargas is not giving up on his 16th Congress initiative under HB 6476 which seeks to establish an Office of Pregnancy Support Services (OPSS) under the Department of Health.
Expected to re-file his bill come 17th Congress in July, Vargas acknowledged that the country has initiated moves to improve maternal healthy by 2015 as part of the nation’s MDGs but came short of its target.
He noted that according to the 5th Philippine Progress Report on the MDGs, it can be inferred that the country “may have not met its MDG target on maternal health as the maternal mortality ratio increased from 209 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 221 in 2011, failing to meet the 2015 target of 52.”
The proposed OPSS-, Vargas said, will be tasked to encourage and assist pregnant women to carry their children to live birth by providing services during and after pregnancy.
“Our initiative seeks to alleviate pregnant women and their families from the difficulties that may otherwise lead to abortion or death of a child during childbirth,” Vargas explained.
Pregnancy support services refers to services offered by the government, faith-based, and other providers, during and after pregnancy that include the following:
1) Material assistance, including maternity and baby clothing, diapers, baby food (including formula), and baby furniture;
2) Referrals for adoption, job training, housing, assistance with domestic violence, and food stamps and other assistance;
3) Crisis hotlines, including for violence or suicide prevention;
4) Pro-bono obstetric and prenatal care services for women intending to carry their children to live birth, including services during pregnancy and following childbirth, and neonatal services, including referrals for such services;
5) Pro-bono legal services to assist women who wish to carry their children to live birth and parents with newborn children;
6) Child care services;
7)Services to assist parents to care for, and prepare to care for, a child with Down Syndrome or another prenatally diagnosed condition, and to facilitate the adoption of such children as appropriate;
8) Life skills mentoring, including the enhancement of the following competencies:
I) Strengthening of marriage;
II) Communication and conflict management for building healthy marriages and families;
III) Decision-making and relationship-building skills prior to marriage; and
IV) High-risk behavior awareness.
Under the measure, the DOH Secretary shall develop a comprehensive publicly accessible, and user-friendly database, to be known as the Pregnancy Care Information Service, to serve as a consolidated source of information on pregnancy support services. It shall include pertinent information on the providers of the pregnancy support services listed in the database.
The Secretary shall also conduct an annual nationwide best practices conference, gathering experts from State and local governments, prenatal and parenting care centers, and other relevant facilities to: 1) Share information on best practices in pregnancy support services; and 2) Identify and address key burdens in adverse circumstances that pregnant women face.
Likewise, the Secretary shall develop and implement a public outreach campaign to provide information on pregnancy support services to vulnerable women, including those in low-income, urban and rural areas.
In addition, the Secretary may award competitive grants to institutions of higher education for the exclusive purpose of providing pregnancy support services as provided under the proposed Act.
Furthermore, the Secretary shall submit an annual report to Congress on the activities, the funds expended on such activities, and the results achieved through such activities.