By Rose de la Cruz

Even with the lifting by the Supreme Court of the temporary restraining order on the Reproductive Health law, Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. of 1 Ang Edukasyon Partylist, continue to be “cautiously optimistic” in that its implementation could still be questioned before the Office of the President. 

The SC recently lifted its TRO on the RH law after determining that 51 specific contraceptives, including two highlighted in the TRO, were “non abortifacient” or capable of aborting a life.  

“Going by the April 26, 2017 SC ruling, it is our hope that the FDA resolution means the TRO on the full implementation of the RH Law is automatically lifted,” Belaro said.

However, he added, he is “cautiously optimistic as this fight to stop those who want to derail advances in the reproductive health of Filipino via the RH Law may not yet be over.”

He said he wished the Department of Health has fully complied with all the stipulations and directives of the Supreme Court in that April 2017 ruling. He appealed as well to the DOH to be ready to fight any appeal.

While the SC did say, “the TRO would be deemed lifted if the questioned drugs and devices are found not abortifacients,” the High Court also said an administrative appeal and challenge the FDA resolution could still be lodged before the Office of the President.

There is also a worrisome condition of “after compliance with due process” also in the same SC ruling. 

Those against the RH Law might use this dependent clause to continue fighting the RH Law before the Supreme Court if they see their chances of appeal to Malacanang as not promising.

As one of the House Leaders, he urged the TRO proponents to finally admit defeat. The science and real facts of RH have always been against their harsh campaign adversely affecting women’s health and the health of our nation. It is time to move on and let the Department of Health fully implement the RH Law. 

By Darleth Romana-Bantiles, MD

“Cancer (CA) affects everyone – the young and old, the rich and poor, men, women and children – and represents a tremendous burden on patients, families and societies. CA is one of the leading causes of death in the world.” This latest statement from the World Health Organization paints the current scenario of the CA burden. Moreover, the number of new CA cases is expected to rise by 70% in the next 2 decades. From 2010, CA has been among the top 3 causes of death in the Philippines, next to heart and blood vessel conditions. 

According to a document from the Philippine Cancer Society, drafted in cooperation with the Department of Health – National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Rizal Medical Center, University of the Philippines and the Finnish Cancer Registry, almost 33% of all types of CA are preventable. There are cancer-protecting mechanisms that may be devised, such as:  having a healthy diet, staying physically fit, and maintaining minimal or coping with stress. 

The diagnosis of CA, while undeniably life-changing for anyone, is not a death sentence. It may seriously affect a patient, even his/her family members and other caregivers. However, the horizon is not altogether bleak and gloomy, because people can choose to be informed about the condition and empowered about the options for treatment. Nowadays, internet connectivity provides the avenue for accessing evidence-based information and sourcing support from CA networks. Patients can take charge of their CA experience by making their preference known, exercising informed decision-making, and demanding that their dignity and values are respected in the management of their conditions. Via CA networks, patients and their supporters may mobilize to point research and medical systems into directions that serve their interests, more than those of the commercially-driven interested parties that boom on perpetuating cancer growth.

Early detection is the key in curing CA. Research shows that most common forms of CA, in the breast, cervix, colon, rectum, oral cavity, thyroid and prostate gland, currently have curative treatment. Unfortunately, awareness about early signs and symptoms of the condition may be low, so CA is not diagnosed early enough to be cured. Sometimes, it is also not the lack of awareness about CA, but the majority of Filipinos’ inability to shoulder expenses in treatment that hinder many citizens to address detected CA symptoms. 

Conventional treatments, like surgery and radiation, may remove malignant cells at early stages and provide total cure. Some doctors recommend chemotherapy with drugs or immunotherapy as an adjuvant, when the CA is in a more advanced stage. An increasing number of patients are exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for CA nowadays. 

Integrative medicine, as a discipline that combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness, is now being considered in the field of oncology. Integrative oncology recognizes the importance of considering the processes of the mind and spirit, in bringing about healing of the physical aspect of man or the body. An exploratory survey of patients in the UP-Philippine General Hospital Cancer Institute, in 2005, reveals that almost all CA patients utilize 2-3 CAM modalities, including prayer and psychosocial support.

Ozone therapy, intravenous treatments and detoxification are but some natural and organic alternative innovations that strengthen a CA patient’s inherent ability to fight the disease. Together with diet and lifestyle modifications, these treatments address the root of CA, rather than focus on symptoms alone. There may also be instances when patients, after undergoing conventional CA treatments, may benefit from alternative treatments that boost the immune system. Patients are also reporting better quality of life, with lesser concerns about safety and adverse reactions from alternative treatments. The Healthy Life Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig is one such medical institution that offers Integrative oncology therapies.

 

By Addie Pobre

NEW RESEARCH findings found that regular orgasmic sex could protect aging women from certain health problems but satisying sex unfortunately poses cardiovascular risks for older men.

"These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone," said Hui Liu, an associate professor of sociology at Michigan State University and lead author of the large-scale study.

The researchers analyzed national survey data from 2,204 people aged 47-85 for the federally funded project, publishing the results in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior on September 6.

Female participants who "found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying" were less likely to develop hypertension than those who found less gratification in sex, researchers said.

"This may be more relevant to women than to men," Liu said, "because men in all relationships, regardless of quality, are more likely to receive support from their partner than are women. However, only women in good quality relationships may acquire such benefits from their partner."

The female sex hormone released during orgasm could also benefit women's health, Liu said.

Meanwhile, men who had sex once or more a week were at a higher risk of cardiovascular problems.

"Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive," said Liu. 

"Moreover, older men who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had higher risk of cardiovascular events than men who did not feel so."

As aging men become "frail and suffer more sexual problems," the strain and pressure of sex and relationships might be responsible for the heightened heart health risks.

"Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax," she said.

Testosterone levels and the use of medications to improve libido might negatively affect male cardiovascular health.

The study authors measured cardiovascular risk as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and cardiovascular events including heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

 

By Addie Pobre 

WITH the alarming rise in the number of teenage pregnancies and childhood undernutrition, government officials are calling for the full implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law.

Cecilia Acuin, chief science research specialist at the Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), reported how teenage mothers are vulnerable to many problems and how early pregnancies eventually affect a child’s growth.

The latest government report on the implementation of the RH law cited the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, which revealed that one in 10 adolescent girls 15 to 19 years old is either already a mother or pregnant with her first child.

The recent Save the Children report, meanwhile, revealed that the Philippines is losing at least P328 billion a year due to the impact of childhood stunting on education and workforce productivity.

On teenage pregnancies’ health risk, statistics are glaring: Acuin said about 25% of mothers are nutritionally-at-risk during pregnancy, but the figure increases to 40% for teenage mothers, because a teenager's nutritional requirements are already very high.

"Once you start menstruating, you can get pregnant, but that doesn't mean that you are ready to become a mother," she said last August during the launch of the latest Cost of Hunger in the Philippines report by non-governmental organization Save the Children.

"When you're pregnant, the nutrients get preferentially shunted to the baby, so if you're a growing mom yourself, that means the cost of your own nutrition, so that's why it would be really better if a teen girl waits until she is probably already working and socially stable before she starts having children because kawawa siya, kawawa rin 'yung bata (the mother suffers, and the baby suffers too)" she continued.

“They're dependent on extended family to provide resources. And very often, they're usually not married, or the husband is not in a position to provide support, so they are more likely not to come for prenatal care, they are more likely not to deliver in facilities. So they're getting more and more complicated health and nutrition problems," she said.

Ella Naliponguit, director of the Department of Education's Health and Nutrition Center, added that teenage parents are also not emotionally ready to raise a baby.

The physical, economical, and emotional unpreparedness are crucial factors critically affecting a child’s nutrition. 

"So do expect that teenage pregnancy is the reason [why] children of teenage pregnancies also would have a lot of issues when it comes to nutrition because the parents are not prepared," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Latest Initiatives on RH Law

Acuin is one of the RH advocates urging the government to fully implement the reproductive health (RH) law, considering the rising level of teenage pregnancies in the country.

"Kaya tied up ito sa implementation ng ating reproductive health [law]…. Kasi siyempre bawat local government may kanya-kanyang authority over their area, and many local governments...do some gatekeeping in terms of providing services for teens, and for reproductive health. So dahil doon, hindi pare-pareho," Acuin lamented.

But despite government officials’ call for the full implementation of RH law, it is still nowhere near enforcement as the Supreme Court ordered last September 13 not to lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on government-procured contraceptive implants.

The Supreme Court ordered the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a fresh round of certifications in connection with the government’s procurement of contraceptives after both agencies accepted a sizable donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation without following the guidelines set by the high tribunal.

The SC ruling issued on Aug. 24 means the 400,000 subdermal contraceptive implants—including Implanon and Implanon NXT, supposedly the most effective forms of birth control—that former Health Secretary Janet Garin had procured at P500 each, or one-tenth of the P5,000 market price with the help of the Gates’ foundation, would remain in government warehouses unless the DOH and FDA can convince anti-abortion groups they are not abortifacients.

Implanon

Implanon is a new implantable hormonal contraceptive for women.

Implanon is a thin, matchstick-sized rod, called an implant. The implant is made of soft, plastic-like material and contains progestin. It is inserted beneath the skin of the arm and a very small amount of the hormone is released continuously to prevent pregnancy. It is effective for up to three years.

According to Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Vice President for Medical Affairs Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, “This method is great news for women who want long-term, reversible birth control and the freedom of not having to remember a pill every day. Planned Parenthood applauds this addition to the array of contraceptive choices for women.”

Reactions

Forum for Family Planning and Development, a group of Reproductive Health (RH) advocates, has expressed disappointment over the decision of the Supreme Court to extend the temporary restraining order on contraceptive implants.

“We lament the decision of the Supreme Court to extend the TRO on implants. This decision sets back the full implementation of the RH Law despite the call of the President of the Republic for its full implementation when he delivered his very first State of the Nation Address” said Benjamin De Leon, FFPD President.

The group lamented that these barriers and oppositions have great cost to poor women and couples.

“We cannot emphasize enough the fact that it is our poor women and couples who are burdened by the effects of such barriers and opposition. Every day that this TRO is in effect, hundreds of women remain at risk from health issues that are otherwise easily preventable. When would be the right time lift the TRO? When more poor women are dead?” added De Leon in a statement

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, meanwhile, believes that the Supreme Court decision not to lift the temporary restraining order on contraceptive implants is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Bad news is better than no news,” she said. “They have been silent about the TRO for more than a year, and we’ve been filing our petitions for the lifting in several instances with the help of the solicitor general.”

Ubial said DOH lawyers will study the decision so they would know the next steps to take. (With reports from Rappler and PDI)

 

 

FULLY aware of the dangers the Zika virus brings, the government particularly the Department of Health (DOH) has initiated various initiatives to prevent the disease’s entry in the country even as reports indicated that the virus is already slowly creeping across Southeast Asia.

The DOH has particularly heightened its alert status on the country’s port of entries even as Singaporean authorities have confirmed 41 cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus infection during the last weekend of August.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said no airline passenger from Singapore has tested positive yet of the virus noting that the Philippines is still free from Zika as of press time.

Singapore, despite having the highest health care standards in Southeast Asia, is a densely populated tropical island with frequent rain, thus encouraging mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water that collects in construction areas, open space and homes.

It is also one of Asia’s cleanest cities but has a chronic problem with dengue fever, which is spread by the same Aedes mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

Zika Virus Facts

Zika virus is a rare tropical disease that has become epidemic in Latin America and the Carribean.

Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, peaking during early morning and late afternoon/evening.

This is the same mosquito that transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Sexual transmission and blood transmission of Zika virus is also possible.

People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.

There are no reports yet regarding the availability of specific treatments and vaccines for the virus.

Dangerous

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that infection with the Zika virus in pregnant women is a cause of the birth defect microcephaly and other severe brain abnormalities in babies.

The CDC said now that the causal relationship has been established, several important questions must still be answered with studies that could take years.

The World Health Organization supports the strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause the birth defect microcephaly in babies, a condition defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

In addition, the agency said it could cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis. Conclusive proof of the damage caused by Zika may take months or years.

Brazil reports the number of confirmed cases of microcephaly at 1,835 as doctors and Brazilian health officials find that some suspected cases of microcephaly are not the disorder. Suspected ones under investigation had declined to 3,257.

Brazil registered 91,387 likely cases of the Zika virus from February until April 2.

Current research in Brazil indicates the greatest microcephaly risk is associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy, but health officials have warned an impact could be seen in later weeks. Recent studies have shown evidence of Zika in amniotic fluid, placenta and fetal brain tissue.

DOH Advice

The DOH has advised pregnant women to consider deferring non-essential travel to Zika-hit countries and reiterated its warning to the public to destroy all breeding places of mosquitoes, which can spread dengue and other tropical diseases.

Health officials have worked to raise public awareness about ways to prevent infections, including using insect repellents and wearing protective clothing.

They also advised the public that if there are suspected cases of Zika it should be reported to the DOH immediately within 24 hours. (With reports from DOH, WHO, Indian Express / Opinyon, Addie Pobre, Kenneth Valladolid)

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