As birth defects become one of the top ten (10) causes of infant mortality in the Philippines, the University of the Philippines Manila – National Institutes of Health (UPM - NIH) and the Department of Health (DOH) began establishing the Birth Defects Surveillance (BDS) Program in 2008, according to a study presented by Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-de la Paz at the 6th International Conference on Birth Defects and Disabilities in the Developing World (ICBD).
The Birth Defects Surveillance (BDS) serves as a pilot project to implement surveillance program for newborns with birth defects in all participating sites, provide mortality statistics in assisting on national policy and program planning, identify risk factors for common birth defects, and make recommendations for adoption of the BDS on a nationwide scale.
To establish the BDS program, researchers formed BDS core group, composed of clinical geneticists, neonatologists and representatives from the DOH. They conducted orientation and monitoring of the project, and grouped together the hospitals and communities by sentinel sites to cover only livebirths (newborns who breathe or exhibit any sign of life even for a few seconds) in health facilities and home deliveries. Researchers were able to coordinate 82 health facilities and communities from 18 sentinel sites and participate for birth defects surveillance in regions such as NCR, Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas, among others.
Researchers, however, faced challenges in establishing the BDS program, particularly lack of policy, infrastructure, and sustainability of the program.
“But despite all these challenges, we are hopeful that we will be able to work a systematic, cohesive and sustainable surveillance in the next few years through research, education and training,” as Dr. Cutiongco-de la Paz affirmed.
The study entitled, “Establishment of the Philippine Birth Defects Surveillance”, is published online at www.actamedicaphilippina.com.ph.
- Written by Hope Bongolan