To showcase the latest health research developments in the country while observing safety protocols for COVID-19, the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) is joining the DOST’s National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) 2020 through virtual activities from October to November 2020.

The DOST-wide celebration, to be held on 23-29 November 2020 with DOST line agencies, carries the theme, “Agham at Teknolohiya: Sandigan ng Kalusugan, Kabuhayan, Kaayusan, at Kinabukasan.” This major event aims to showcase research and development initiatives of the DOST and the entire scientific community that aim to improve the quality of Filipino lives during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To kick off this year’s series of NSTW activities on health research, the Council is holding the HERDIN Plus Online Learning webinar to guide students, researchers, and educators on how to access health and health research-related information through HERDIN Plus. The event will be held this 22 October 2020 through Zoom and broadcasted on DOST-PCHRD’s Facebook page.

A  mental health research writeshop will also be conducted in anticipation of the DOST-wide celebration. With the recent launch of the mental health research agenda, outputs of the writeshop will help participants gear for the next mental health research call for proposals.

Hataw Agham, an annual DOST-PCHRD promoting physical activities for health, is also pushing through via online platform this year. In partnership with the PCHRD-funded project Improving Neurocognition through Dance and Kinesthetics (INDAK), Hataw Agham will be showcasing the benefits of dance in improving cognitive health among the elderly through online dance modules to be released via the DOST-PCHRD Facebook page.

As its flagship event for NSTW 2020, the DOST-PCHRD will hold a virtual session highlighting PCHRD-funded technologies and programs in response to COVID-19. Through the official NSTW virtual platform to be announced on the NSTW website (nstw.dost.gov.ph), the session will be streamed live on 23 November 2020.

Other DOST-PCHRD projects on functional food, biomedical engineering and hospital technologies, and ICT for Health will be featured in the NSTW virtual exhibit as well.

For more updates on the DOST-PCHRD’s activities for NSTW 2020, tune in to our online platforms― on Facebook at facebook.com/dostpchrd, on Twitter at  twitter.com/DOST_PCHRD, and our website at pchrd.dost.gov.ph.

 

Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) fellows and interns under the 2018-2020 Department of Health-Advancing Health through Evidence Assisted Decisions (DOH-AHEAD) Health Policy Systems Research Fellowship and Internship Program graduated last September 30, 2020 in a recognition ceremony held online.

The DOH-AHEAD HPSR Fellowship and Internship Program is an initiative of the Department of Health (DOH), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), that responds to the increased demand for evidence-informed policies and programs in the health sector. It engages professionals both in health and non-health fields in a two-year fellowship and internship with selected DOH offices.

Designed to help HPSR fellows and interns gain firsthand experience in health systems and policy making, OIC-Director of the Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau (HPDPB) of the DOH Dir. Francis Rose Elgo-Mamaril expounded on the objectives of the program saying , “The overarching goal was to develop the next generation of researchers and policymakers to bridge the shortfall in the capacity of research and policy in the health sector.”

In light of the many healthcare gaps and issues that the health sector is striving to address, DOH Assistant Secretary of Health-Health Policy and Systems Development Team Dr. Kenneth Ronquillo stressed the responsibilities of the graduates in contributing to the creation of progressive health solutions for all. “The public health sector and the communities are in need of skilled and devoted young professionals,” he said in his address to the graduates.

Currently, the DOH along with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is gearing for the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law which aims to provide equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare to every Filipino.

Representing this batch of HPSR fellows and interns, Gabrielle Anne Gabaton called on the youth to contribute to the realization of universal healthcare. “There is much to be done and much we can contribute to public health no matter what our background is,” she said, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary research in building robust health policies and systems. 

The DOST-PCHRD, through its Executive Director Jaime Montoya, expressed the Council’s commitment to support the program and its objectives. “May this fellowship program continue to be an avenue of learning for researchers and for the attainment of health policy systems and research goals,” he said.

Filipino experiments revealed evidence that virgin coconut oil may be a means to defeat COVID-19.

There are still alternative solutions against COVID-19 aside from vaccines. Although further investigation is needed before we develop a possible prevention or treatment option, we aim to give Filipinos hope through our ongoing local research initiatives,” said Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña.

After six months of experiments, results showed that compounds from coconut oil and virgin coconut oil, or VCO, a readily available commodity in the Philippines, decreased coronavirus count by 60-90% at low viral load.



Researchers also discovered that said compounds were observed to improve cell survival. More experiments, however, are needed to determine whether higher concentrations of these compounds will further reduce the replication rate of the virus.

"The results are very promising, as not only does it show that the VCO, by itself, can destroy the virus, but it also has a key mechanism in upregulating the immune response against COVID-19. Indeed, we look forward to the results of clinical trials on the various uses of VCO as an adjunct for the treatment of COVID-19," said Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).

Funded by the DOST-PCHRD, the research led by Dr. Fabian Dayrit of Ateneo De Manila University sought to investigate if coconut oil compounds are effective antiviral agents to prevent or reduce COVID-19 infection, following reports of previous research that VCO compounds are effective at killing other viruses.

With the lack of available vaccine for COVID-19, DOST seeks to intensify the thrust for alternative solutions to the increasing cases of COVID-19 by all means supporting Filipino research and innovations. Currently, the DOST, together with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute and the University of the Philippines - Manila, is already exploring the capability of VCO to upregulate the immune system. Results from these ongoing VCO Clinical trials will determine whether VCO can be used as adjunct therapy for COVID-19 patients.

Aside from facilitating the eventual conduct of the WHO vaccine clinical trials in the Philippines, the DOST-PCHRD is also supporting projects under its initiatives on Repurposing of Existing Drugs, Supplements and other Formulations, and Clinical Trials of Candidate Drugs to find viable treatment options against COVID-19.

The Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) launched the Memorandum of Understating (MOU) with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila) to strengthen science and technology cooperation in health.

Under the MOU, DOST-PCHRD, LSHTM and UP Manila will work together on various S&T collaborations focusing on priority research areas including genomics, modelling, diagnostics, clinical trials, epidemiology and immunology.

The partnership also entails exchange of scientists, faculty and specialists interested in scientific and technological cooperation in health. DOST-PCHRD agreed to extend funding to various capacity building activities such as research fellowship, scholarship, post-doctoral trainings, research enrichment (sandwich) programs and staff trainings.

Professor Martin Hibberd of LSHTM viewed the partnership as a huge opportunity to expand health research ventures in the Philippines. Dr. Jaime Montoya, DOST-PCHRD Executive Director, assured LSHTM and UP Manila the Council’s full support and cooperation in this collaboration.

In attendance to witness the MOU launching were DOST Assistant Secretary for International Cooperation Unit Dr. Leah Buendia, UP National Institutes of Health Executive Director Dr. Eva Cutiongco de la Paz, LSHTM Coordinator Dr. Julius Clemence Hafalla, and DOST-PCHRD Institutional Development Division (IDD) Chief Ms. Carina Rebulanan.

Marinduque locals will now have a better and modern means of preparing for health outbreaks and hazards, thanks to the community launching of eSalba, an early warning and communication tool for disaster preparedness.

Last September 18, the mobile and web-based eSalba system was handed over by technology developer lead Dr. Delia Senoro and her team from Mapua University through a symbolic Health Vulnerability Index map to Mr. Russel Madrigal, representative and consultant of Marinduque Governor Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.



Turnover of Marinduque HVI Map to Mr. Russel Madrigal during the eSalba launching last September 18, 2020, at Boac, Marinduque



By showing residents and responders an overview of barangays most vulnerable to health-related hazards through its health vulnerability map, the eSalba allows communities to prepare with sufficient time to avoid harm, threats to health, and casualties,” said Dr. Senoro.

Funded by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), the eSalba system is a product of a larger program called D-HIVE (Development of Health Index: Vulnerability to Extreme Environmental Events) for Marinduque Island under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (DRR-CCA) research program.

Through stakeholder engagement, we empower communities and instill in them a sense of ownership to the project toward sustained efforts in transforming lives and communities for the better,” said Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, PCHRD Executive Director in a response message delivered by Ms. Merlita M. Opeña, Division Chief of Research, Information, Communication and Utilization Division of PCHRD.

The eSalba system is also designed to aid emergency responders in making decisions during disasters and help prepare the local government unit for health monitoring, route planning, defining optimal evacuation policies, and adaptation measures.

The application allows locals to easily self-report hazards and incidents to authorities, allowing quicker and more coordinated disaster response of LGUs as it provides locations of reporters, responders, evacuation and health centers in the community.

The eSalba system was developed by Mapua University researchers in collaboration with Marinduque State College and in consultation with the local residents of Marinduque. After the launching in the said island, the D-HIVE team plans to upscale its research initiatives and data collection to the whole of Region IVB, disseminating the tool to more LGUs in MIMAROPA region.