Press Release
April 27, 2016


To effectively reduce maternal deaths in the country, Sen. Grace Poe wants to strengthen primary health care in rural areas by establishing more polyclinics in far-flung communities and strengthening barangay health centers.

Poe, an advocate of maternal health and child care, said many maternal deaths could have been prevented if women had access to immediate and capable care in their barangay health centers and rural health units.

The Philippines' maternal mortality ratio (MMR) has decreased from 209 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 172 per 100,000 live births in 1998, and 162 per 100,000 live births in 2006.

However, based on the 2011 survey--the latest available data used in the Philippines' 2015 Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals--the MMR again rose to 221 per 100,000 live births. This means 10 mothers--most of them poor--die every day due to pregnancy-related causes.

"We have to address this by providing quality healthcare that is affordable, accessible, and sensitive to cultural and particular needs of women. We will establish polyclinics manned by well-trained health workers," Poe said.

A country report by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that only 25 percent of pregnant women in the poorest quintile in the Philippines delivered with a skilled birth attendant, compared with 94 percent in the richest quintile.

About 75 percent of poor women still give birth at home, the WHO said.

"Inequity in health status and access to services remain the most important health problems in the Philippines," Poe lamented.

"We are committed to increase the number of deliveries by skilled birth attendants and in well-equipped health facilities. One way to do this is by strengthening the capacity of rural health units," she said.

In the Philippines, only 18,396 of the country's 42,027 barangays have health stations, according to the 2013 national health demographic survey.

The country also suffers from a shortage of 60,000 doctors in the public sector. There are only five health workers--doctors, nurses and midwives--for every 10,000 population, which is way below the 23:10,000 ratio recommended by the WHO.

Poe, the lone independent presidential candidate in the May 9 elections, said this will be addressed by her One Town, One Doctor program, which will provide scholarships to medical students in exchange for their commitment to serve their town for four years.

"Hospitals and PhilHealth coverage are both useless without doctors, nurses and midwives," she said.

Aside from training doctors, Poe said her "Gobyernong may Puso" will ensure that health centers in remote areas have sufficient and available emergency transport.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 66 percent of Filipinos seek medical care from public health facilities, with the poorest Filipinos going to barangay health centers and rural health units almost 90 percent of the time.

If elected, Poe and her running mate, Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, vowed they would allocate 20 percent of the national budget to their top three priorities: health, education and housing.

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