Integrating child protection with Universal Health Care


At the ongoing “Ako Para Sa Bata” conference, Beverly Lorraine C. Ho, M.D., OIC-Undersecretary of the Department of Health (DoH) Public Health Services Team, discussed how Women and Child Protection can be incorporated into Universal Health Care.

Here are the important points of the lecture and discussion.

The Universal Health Care Law — R.A. 11223, which was signed on Feb. 20, 2019 — ensures that every Filipino is heathy, protected from health hazards and risk, and has access to affordable, quality, and readily available health service at the appropriate levels of the health system.

The main goals of the Philippine health care system are:

1) Protecting and enabling Filipinos to care for self and community.

2) Taking care of Filipinos when they need it.

Women and Child Protection is the priority of Violence and Injury Prevention. Data shows that 80% of women and children aged 13-24 have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. Most victims do not seek help. This situation was worse during the COVID-19 lockdowns. There was a 13.1% increase of reported cases.

The Omnibus Health Guidelines (OHG) inform LGUs that face-to-face consultations through Women and Children Protection Units (WCPUs) are available. Learning institutions should integrate personal health education and skills in the curriculum. Workplaces should promote an environment that prevents exploitation, discrimination, and harassment.

The DoH and the Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation have developed the Health Promotion playbook that strengthens violence prevention at the primary level. “Juana Be Wais” teaches kids to recognize violence and encourages reporting. It engages more citizens to prevent violence.

There is a significant impact on long-term health, well-being, and opportunities of persons who have experienced violence either at home or in the community. The most common perpetrators are persons who live with the victims at home. The pandemic restrictions increased the violence on women, girls, and boys in their own homes. Strong preventive interventions are needed to prevent and eliminate violence and abuse. There should be strategies to complement response and treatment strategies.

The DoH has set up “The Healthy Filipinos,” a one-stop website ( with health information in both English and Filipino. This was done in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

There are 120 WCPUs in 57 provinces, 10 cities, and 22 municipalities in the country. There are three regional training centers for WCPUs. There is now a shift to an integrated approach policy. The planning and delivery of health and health-related services is being done along with a regional coaching and mentoring program.

Dr. Ho presented the National Strategic and Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) 2021-2025 which focuses and ensures that survivors of violence against women and children (VAWC) are given critical information on the services they may need. The CIP was developed by the DoH in partnership with CPN and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“We need to work together to make the healthy choice, the easy choice” by “supporting people in making healthy lifestyle choices, changing cultural mindsets and structural barriers, improving access, affordability of services to protect women and children and achieve universal health care,” she remarked.

The reactors shared some insights.

Dulce Elfa, RN, Supervisor of the DoH’s Women and Men’s Health Development Division, highlighted the Healthy Public Open Spaces Act and the Healthy Pilipinas Awards. At the primary care level, there are WCPUs where nurses are trained in mental health and counseling.

In the open forum, she said that health care providers should continue to be trained on how to handle difficult situations such as reports on misdemeanors by residents to patients.

Lyra Ruth Clemente-Chua, MD, past president of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS) talked about VAWC desks established in hospitals as part of the POGS task force on gender-based violence. Victims who seek care will be given the needed emergency response. They will be treated with empathy, equity, compassion in a gender sensitive and non-judgmental way.

Francis Xavier M. Dimalanta, MD, Treasurer at the Philippines Pediatric Society, Trustee of the Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, remarked that determining if children have been subject to abuse or hurtful experiences and evaluating the results is the job of every pediatrician. These are the first line service providers together with CPN and they are committed to providing free prevention and early intervention services for suspected and confirmed abuse cases. Online child exploitation increased during the lockdown. Two million children were victims of abuse but only half were reported. Perpetrators are often family members. They should connect these children to child protective services.

Cynthia R. Leynes, MD, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, UP College of Medicine revealed her research statistics.

There are 118 mental health facilities in the community with 55 based in the National Capital Region. Only 26 facilities serve children. Only three facilities deal with child trauma. There should be a reorientation of community services and education of the public that leads to a change in values. This process starts at home, and schools are very important settings for the prevention of abuse and mental disorders. The Child Protection Units have a point person to help the child — legal and mental help, to name a few.

She highlighted the UHC law that grants more power to the DoH to integrate services. It facilitates the connection of local clinics to DoH services. She pointed out that politics prevents this from happening. Thus, there is the urgent need “to change attitudes in helping each other for a cause” — to achieve universal health care.

Youth reactor Anne Nirelle C. Balderrama, a medical student at the UP College of Medicine, asserted: “The youth hope to be engaged as equal partners in UHC dialogues, decision making, and interventional design in order of us to trust and feel these interventions are intended for us.”

She said that government and leadership, and a healthy workforce are the two most important health building blocks that should be prioritized. This includes “reducing out-of-pocket expenses and ensuring that there is an available, responsive, and competent health force in the country.”

Dr. Bernadette J. Madrid, Child Protection Network Foundation Executive Director and APSB president, emphasized: “Women and Children Protection brings disciplines together in one place as VACW cuts across the stages in one person’s lifespan and thus requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

The conference runs every Thursday until Nov. 24, with webinar sessions from 10-11:30 a.m.

Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.

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