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SWP’s New Year’s Wish for DOH Sec: Prioritize Children and Youth Programs

The Social Watch Philippines (SWP), a public budget watchdog and an advocate for people-centered policies, appeals to the Department of Health (DOH) to sustain the gains on tobacco control and prioritize pro-children and youth programs.

The confirmation of Dr. Teodoro Herbosa’s appointment comes at the heels of a public health system that is continually challenged financially and organizationally. Still, SWP hopes for greater room to advance progressive advocacies with DOH.

“As DOH lead, we ask Herbosa to fully exercise his authority to help reduce and mitigate the negative impact of tobacco use, foster child protection, as well as promote access to safe water, sanitation, and proper hygiene,” said SWP Co-convenor Dr. Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza.

The organization recognizes Herbosa’s contribution to tobacco control and wishes that this initiative will be sustained. According to SWP, the country has witnessed a decline in tobacco use prevalence over the years, but the battle for a tobacco-free future still stands. It remains one of the top factors in the spread of non-communicable diseases and a peril to the youth and children. The 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey for the Philippines revealed that, of the students aged 13 – 15 years old, 12.5% used tobacco products, and 14.1% consumed electronic cigarettes. The same survey stated that 45.2% of the students were exposed to tobacco smoke at any outdoor public place, while 62.7% saw someone smoking inside the school building or outside the school property.

“With the continuing use of conventional cigarettes, the alarming rise of vape/e-cigarettes consumption, relentless tobacco industry interference, and the deliberate targeting of our children and youth, we vow to back DOH’s pro-health strategies and commit to closely work with the department to achieve smoke-free and vape-free environments at the local and national levels,” vowed Raquiza.

In addressing abuses and violence against children, SWP hopes to engage with his office to progressively realize the Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) of the Women and Children Protection Program (WCPP). The CIP is the implementation plan and budget that aims to increase the number of appropriately managed child abuse cases in public health facilities, particularly the Women and Children Protection Units (WCPU). WCPUs are offices dedicated to responding to cases of abuse and violence against women and children.

According to the statistics from the Child Protection Network, the reported cases of violence against children (VAC) to WCPUs reached as high as 10,049 in 2019 and 8,367 in 2022. There were 6,831 VAC cases already as of August 2023.

“We also wish to get the strong support of the Secretary for the institutionalization of the WCPUs in DOH-retained hospitals through an Administrative Order, with the multidisciplinary team of medical doctor, psychologist, nurse, legal, and social workers in place,” added Raquiza.

SWP is also working with rural and urban communities in advocating for water, sanitation, and hygiene or WASH, a basic human right that is also considered one of the ‘primary drivers of public health. The lack of affordable and clean water and access to proper sanitation and hygiene impacts the health and welfare of Filipino children. For instance, diarrhea, a food- and water-borne disease that can be prevented with access to WASH, remains one of the top killers of children under the age of five.

“In addition, we, at SWP, affirm that increasing public investments in WASH is critical for improving people’s well-being and dignity. We hope that the agenda of DOH under the leadership of Secretary Herbosa will reflect people’s real needs such as an available, accessible, acceptable, equitable, quality, and sustainable WASH,” said Raquiza.

SWP commits to fully engage and support DOH and Secretary Herbosa to progressively improve our people’s well-being.#

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