President Benigno S. Aquino III poses with pupils of the newly repaired classrooms of Guiuan East Central School in Barangay 8, Poblacion, Guiuan during the visit to the province of Eastern Samar on Friday (November 07). It was in Guiuan where super Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever recorded, made its first landfall on November 08, 2013. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III poses with pupils of the newly repaired classrooms of Guiuan East Central School in Barangay 8, Poblacion, Guiuan during the visit to the province of Eastern Samar on Friday (November 07). It was in Guiuan where super Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever recorded, made its first landfall on November 08, 2013. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – A lawmaker has filed a measure seeking to institutionalize a national mother and child health program to protect Filipino mothers and children from malnutrition.

Rep. Rogelio J. Espina (Lone District, Biliran) pushed for the immediate passage of House Bill 5431, saying it is imperative to provide prenatal and postnatal maternity care service to a pregnant woman in order to protect her health as well as ensure the nutritional diet of her newborn child to eradicate malnutrition.

Espina said in order to have a future generation of youth who are physically and mentally healthy, it is recommended that a maternal and child health care program is established in every local government unit (LGU).

“During pregnancy, undernutrition can have a devastating effect on the growth and development of a child. Babies who are malnourished in the womb have a higher risk of dying in infancy and are more likely to have lifelong cognitive and physical defects and chronic health problems,” Espina said.

Espina said children under the age of two will have a weak immune system and more susceptible to dying from common illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.

The 2013 national nutrition survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) showed a significant increase in cases of child malnutrition.

While mortality rate for children under five years old has declined slightly in recent years from 54 deaths per 1,000 births in 1988-1992 to 48 deaths in 1993-1997, infant mortality rates have remained unchanged at about 35 death per 1,000 births, said Espina, chairman of the House Committee on Population and Family Relations.

According to Espina, from 2012, the FNRI reported that 25% or one in every four pregnant women is undernourished. They are at risk to deliver low birth weight babies and other negative pregnancy outcomes such as still births, miscarriages and abortions. The nutrition status of lactating mothers is 11.9% or one in every ten lactating mothers is underweight.

Espina said the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) noted that because two-thirds of all births are delivered at home, only 56% of mothers receive assistance from health professionals during the delivery of their children.

“The Philippines has a high mortality rate of approximately 200 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the 2000 State of Philippine Population Report, ten Filipino women die every 24 hours from causes related to pregnancy complications and childbirth. One of the reasons is the irregular or lack of pre-natal check-ups,” Espina said.

Espina said even the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations strongly recommends proper health care on the first 1,000 days of a child. From the start of pregnancy until the second year of the child is the most crucial stage of the child’s brain formation.

“The right nutrition during these 1,000 days has a profound impact on the ability of the child to grow, learn and lead a long-term healthy and stable life,” Espina stressed.

The measure mandates the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), shall develop a comprehensive health care program for pregnant and lactating women as well as the health and nutrition of their newborn children from day 1 to 1,000 days.

As defined under the bill, the “1,000 days” start from day one of pregnancy up to the age of two years of the child.

Under the bill, the maternal and child health care services which may be provided to eligible individuals during 1,000-day period include the instruction and counseling regarding future health care for the mother and child, nutrition counseling and counseling and education concerning all aspects of prenatal care, childbirth and motherhood.

The bill also provides milk-feeding program for pregnant and nursing mothers, including breastfeeding for newborn children, treating malnourished children with special and therapeutic foods and general family development.(MNS)