Press Release
September 15, 2016

Hontiveros: Harm Reduction is the most effective and compassionate response to the drug problem

Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday asked the Department of Health (DOH) to push for harm reduction strategies as a response to the country's drug problem.

During the government's National Health Summit attended by stakeholders, officials and employees of the health department, Hontiveros said that the 'war on drugs cannot be a war against the people, or worse, a war against the poor'. The senator urged the health department to play a crucial role in providing a public health framework in curbing drug addiction and trafficking in the country.

"In order for our government to succeed in its campaign against illegal drugs and trafficking, we must also respond to the health and social issues that lead to drug dependence", Hontiveros said.

Harm reduction

Hontiveros, who also currently serves as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, recently visited Thailand to study its health framework on drugs. She cited the country's effectiveness in pursuing a harm reduction strategy.

Hontiveros explained that harm reduction strategies will allow the creation of friendly, community-based drop-in centers and outreach services, encourage the uptake of health services through improved peer education and support, and spend resources on sustainable, evidence-based policies and interventions at the community level.

"Harm reduction is not only a compassionate response, it is also the most effective response", Hontiveros said.

The senator lamented the fact that there are only 44 drug rehabilitation centers in the country. "Clearly, much has to be done in this aspect", she said.

Universal Healthcare

The Senator also urged stakeholders to build the momentum towards universal healthcare' through public spending and localization.

The Senator also lauded the Duterte administration's decision to send the government's health officials to Cuba to the study their public health system. She said the visit is a step towards heavy public spending for health professionals, healthcare providers and health infrastructure to address hospital shortages and facility upgrades.

"Cuba-inspired super barangay health centers"

The Senator also urged the government to seriously study the possibility of building "super barangay health centers" similar to Cuba's consultorios (clinics) and policlinicos (specialty clinics) to strengthen the role of our local government units, down to the barangay level, and bring healthcare to the farthest and to the fringes.

"Super barangay health centers could strengthen our current barangay health system by modernizing it with adequate facilities, personnel and expertise. Our barangays must become the people's first line of defense against preventable diseases, especially with the emergence of new and dangerous viruses like the Zika," Hontiveros concluded.

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