DOH: Maternal deaths up

Posted at 06/19/12 2:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines -  Health Secretary Enrique Ona disclosed that the latest survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO) showed an alarming increase in the number of deaths caused by pregnancy or childbirth complications.

Based on the 2011 Family Health Survey, maternal mortality rate in the country went up to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, from 162 deaths in 2006.

Ona said that in 1993, the NSO recorded 209 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

“This is now a challenge for us in the government because we are working to reduce maternal mortality rate in the country to 54 by year 2016,” Ona noted.

He stressed the need for the passage of critical legislation and implementation of other appropriate measures to reduce maternal mortality in the country.

“Reducing maternal mortality to 54 and meeting our Millennium Development Goal requires critical legislation to address structural barriers to universal health care. Hence, we need to pass the Reproductive Health bill now,” Ona stressed.

He said there is also the need to amend the midwifery and other health professional laws as well as consolidate local health systems at the provincial level.

Ona said the reduction in maternal mortality is essential, for it serves as a gauge of the country’s health system.

“If you have a high maternal mortality rate it means that your health system is not good enough,” Ona explained.

NSO director Socorro Abejo, however, stressed that the results of the survey set to be released today may not be entirely accurate.

“The survey was based on a seven-year estimate and involves 53,000 women of reproductive age. Thus there is a high confidence interval, so for us the report may still be insufficient to state that mortality rate has increased,” she said.

Abejo said there was also an overlapping of the survey reference period, which could have also affected results of the survey.

“For us the figure merely indicates that the situation did not really change from a rough estimate of 200 maternal mortality rate in 1993 up to the present,” Abejo added.

Even if the statistical data would indicate “no change,” Ona said the results still indicate no improvement as far as maternal health is concerned.

“No change in the statistical data which means it did not get worse, but it also means that the situation for pregnant women did not get any better,” he pointed out.

He said the programs being undertaken by the DOH for the past two years should be slowly showing impact in reducing maternal deaths.

Maternal death, Ona said, is highly preventable through effective family planning health services, ante-natal care and access to health facilities.

Ona said the DOH has started upgrading health facilities and intends to distribute some P500-million worth of family planning commodities this year in an effort to reduce maternal deaths.

The DOH, however, admitted that family planning program has been very limited for the past 10 years, with an estimated six million women reported to having unmet need for modern family planning services.