With the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) still in effect, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure the continued delivery of health care programs in Local Government Units (LGUs) under the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act” (Republic Act 11148) or the “First 1,000 Days Law,” which he co-authored.
The First 1,000 Days Law aims to scale up programs and interventions that help children receive adequate nutrition in their first 1,000 days of life, from conception until their second birthday. It prioritizes those who are living in unserved and underserved communities, including those in far-flung and poverty-stricken areas.
Gatchalian acknowledged that while the COVID-19 crisis is straining the country’s healthcare system, he emphasized that the failure to deliver other basic crucial services would pose a long-term challenge to public health and hamper national development.
Since the implementation of the First 1,000 Days Law is at the barangay level through health centers, rural health units, and barangay health stations, Gatchalian urged LGUs to ensure that barangay health workers, barangay nutrition scholars, and child development workers are mobilized to deliver services while observing social distancing measures.
Gatchalian added that LGUs should facilitate safe and smooth movement for these health workers and the women and children receiving their services. Barangays should also assist pregnant women in reaching health care facilities, especially when they are giving birth.
The senator explained that the most rapid period of brain growth takes place in the first 1,000 days of life, which is considered the greatest opportunity to provide optimal nutrition for brain development. It is also the time when the brain is most vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies.
Poor nutrition during this period could lead to stunting or impaired growth and development, the adverse consequences of which include poor cognition, poor educational performance, and lost productivity. Stunting is also associated with increased risk of non-communicable diseases. Stunted children who later gain excessive weight also face an increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases when they reach adulthood.
One in three Filipino children under five years old is stunted, says a 2019 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) entitled The State of the World’s Children: Children, Food and Nutrition. The report also cited that one in every ten Filipino adolescents is overweight.
“Sa kabila ng krisis pangkalusugan na dulot ng COVID-19, kailangan nating siguruhin na may mga mabisa at ligtas na paraan ang ating mga komunidad upang magbigay kalinga sa mga ina at kanilang mga sanggol na anak,” said Gatchalian.