The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, one of the three sectoral councils of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) and lead national agency responsible for coordination and monitoring health research initiatives in the country will mark its 30th year in service on 16 March 2012.
Dr. Antonio B. Bautista, Deputy Program Manager of the Field Operations Consolidated Global Fund Malaria Project tackles the development of malaria control in the country
â€œMalaria is one of the most persistent mosquito-borne infection in the Philippines. Prevalent areas are usually rural, mountainous and hard to reach.â€
Dr. Antonio B. Bautista, Deputy Program Manager of the Field Operations Consolidated Global Fund Malaria Project from the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc (PSFI), presented the status of malaria in the Philippines during the scientific conference of the 14th National Institutes of Health (NIH) anniversary last February.
The Philippines is one of the 20 countries in East Asia and the Pacific availing the Global Fund (GF) opportunity which is a unique global public/private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
In 2003, PSFI assisted in the formulation and development of the GF Round 2 project proposal for malaria. It was in 2005 when PSFI became the countryâ€™s principal recipient of the GF-Malaria grant covering the five most endemic provinces of the Philippines through the endorsement of the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM).
Dr. Bautista reported that before GF, 79 provinces were categorized endemic in the Philippines and only 13 were malaria-free provinces (1991-2002).
â€œWorking with the GF, the projectâ€™s target was to cover 26 provinces by 2010. Strategies in reaching our target was through building local capacities, early diagnosis and prompt treatment, strengthening vector control, strengthening surveillance and epidemic management, ensuring quality of services, intensifying health promotion and establishing and expanding networks and collaborations,â€ said Dr. Bautista.
As early as 2008, the project reached the target of 76.8% reduction in morbidity rate of the 26 endemic provinces and a 90% reduction in mortality rate. The 13 Malaria-free provinces in 2002 became 23 Malaria-free provinces in 2008.
In 2009, the GF saw it fit to consolidate three projects on malaria: GF Round 2, Round 5 and Round 6. Their objectives were to ensure universal access to reliable diagnosis, highly effective and appropriate treatment and preventive measures, capacitate LGUs to own manage and sustain the Malaria Program in their respective localities, sustain financing of anti-malaria efforts at all levels of operations and ensure a functioning quality assurance system for Malaria operations.
From 2009-2010, the project have established 552 Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) sites and 987 Microscopy centers. In 2011, 95% of the diagnostic and treatment facilities were reported functional.
In strengthening and expanding vector control services in the country, the consolidated project have already distributed 2.7 million bed nets in a period of 2 years and 576,000 houses were sprayed with insecticides and 996,000 pregnancy packages were distributed among the 40 provinces in the Philippines (21 in Luzon and 19 in Mindanao).
Dr. Bautista reported that in 2011, the total LGU spending on Malaria amounted to 59 million and the DOH budget for Malaria was raised at 162 million.
â€œWe are already doing everything. We just need to do it more correctly, regularly and in a timely manner,â€ concluded Dr. Bautista.
The Grand Challenges Canada is now accepting applications for three funding opportunities that are currently open. They are looking for bold ideas with big impact. The current funding opportunities are as follows:
1.Â Canadaâ€™s Rising Stars in Global Health
This funding program aims to tap into the creativity, knowledge and skills of Canadaâ€™s early-career innovators to solve some of the most persistent health challenges in the developing world. We are looking for innovative ideas to address complex real-world challenges that involve a scientific/technological solution (new or existing) alone or in combination with social and/or business innovations.
2. Â Rising Stars in Global Health
Similar to the Canadaâ€™s Rising Stars in Global Health program, this funding program aims to tap into the creativity, knowledge and skills of early-career innovators. However, this program is specifically seeking bold ideas from innovators from low- and lower-middle income countries.
3. Â Saving Lives at Birth
Grand Challenges Canada in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development are calling on the brightest minds across the globe to identify and scale up transformative prevention and treatment approaches at the time of birth for pregnant women and newborns in underserved, low-resource settings. Specifically, the Saving Lives at Birth partners are looking for applications for innovative approaches to address roadblocks to healthy pregnancies and births in three domains: science & technology, service delivery and â€œdemand sideâ€ innovation.
Grand Challenges Canada is a unique and independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people in developing countries by integrating scientific, technological, business and social innovation. Grand Challenges Canada works with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and other global health foundations and organizations to find sustainable long-term solutions to the most pressing health challenges. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre.
National TB Program (NTP) Manager Dr. Rosalind G. Vianzon shows the country's TB program development using the DOTS strategy
â€œThe increase in prevalence of tuberculosis has been due to the low priority accorded to anti-tuberculosis activities by many countries. The unavailability of anti-TB drugs, insufficient laboratory networking, poor health infrastructures, as well as a lack of trained health personnel, have also contributed to the rise in the incidence of the diseases,â€ according to Dr. Rosalind G. Vianzon, National TB Program (NTP) Manager from the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC) of the Department of Health (DOH).
The NTP is the governmentâ€™s commitment to address the TB problem in the country and its main strategy is to use the Directly-Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) to detect and cure TB patients.
Significant progress was recorded since the Philippines adopted the DOTS strategy in 1996. At the end of 2002-2003, all public health centers were able to deliver DOTS services.
In 2007, the treatment success of TB was able to reach above 85% and is expected to be sustained in the next years. The cure rate was posted at 82% in 2007 but it is likely to increase at 85% by 2015.
The case detection rate for new smear positives has reached the international target of 70% as early as 2004 and has been sustained up to the present.
Dr. Vianzon reported that the case detection rate of all forms of TB seemed to be weak and mostly reaching below 70%. That is why the call to increase case detection to 70% or at least 85% is deemed necessary.
â€œWe are not just looking on all new forms of TB but merely considering all forms because epidemiologically, you cannot control a program if you will focus only on the highly infectious,â€ she said.
Dr. Vianzon mentioned that there are two key documents on TB research. One is the Philippine Plan of Action to Control TB (PhilPACT) 2012-2016 and the other is 2010 Tuberculosis Research Priority Agenda Setting.
The PhilPACT is the roadmap of the NTP and attuned with the health sector reform â€œKalusugan Pangkalahatanâ€ or KP. It is in line with TB global plans such as The Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015, Stop TB Partnership (technical arm of the international communities on TB control) and Regional Strategic Plan of Western Pacific.
The 2010 Tuberculosis Research Priority Agenda Setting meanwhile, is the research monograph of the NTP and was developed to support the R&D of NTP. This monograph was based on the 8-point strategy of NTP plan, with perspectives coming from both public and private sectors. The document was intended for doers, funders and implementers of research.
The 2010 Tuberculosis Research Priority Agenda Setting is published through a funding from the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST).
Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala promised PhP50 million additional funds for virgin coconut oil research after the former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary, Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, called for increase in budget for research on VCO.
â€œIt is the key product why we were the second largest economy in Asia in the 40â€™s,50â€™s, and 60â€™s, second only to Japan,â€ Dr. Galvez-Tan said last February 29, 2012 at the presentation of the research findings on the research done by a team of scientists from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) entitled â€œStudy on the Effect of VCO in Human with Emphasis in Cholesterolâ€ at the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). He added, â€œIf we want to make a change in our country in the next five years, this is where we can make a mark in the world!â€
In his message, Dr. Galvez-Tan, the consultant for the said VCO research, described how the coconut industry used to support the Philippine economy in the past and how the untruthful accusation of health risks from coconut oil has led to the downfall of the industry. He Â explained that the popularity of competing vegetable oils such as soy bean and corn oils has severely affected the otherwise growing need for coconut oil in the world market and have resulted to the industryâ€™s eventual defeat. He said, â€œThe Americans bad-mouthed the coconut and replaced it with soy bean oil and corn oil, which were actually found out to be worse because they are trans fats and hydrogenized oils.â€
Dr. Galvez-Tan lamented, â€œThe research on coconut oil went nowhere in the last ten years, maybe because there was no money.â€ By increasing the budget for researches that prove the health benefits and safety of coconut oil, PCA can encourage the rise of coconut industry again. He added, â€œWhat we need here is bring back the coconut to its glory.â€
Sec. Alcala immediately answered Dr. Galvez-Tanâ€™s call for an increase in budget at the said event, promising not less than PhP 50 million for research. He said, â€œMakakaasa po kayo na kung sakaling kukulangin po yung pondo ng PCA on research, ihahanda ang pondo that will be coming from the Bureau of Agrucultural Research (BAR) para madagdagan. Maybe not less than PhP50 million will be allocated for research. (You can expect in case the PCAâ€™s fund for research is insufficient, an additional amount is ready coming from the BAR. Maybe not less than PhP 50 million will be allocated for research.)â€