By Camille A. Aguinaldo

THE SENATE on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to expand the country’s maternal and child health care programs during the child’s first 1,000 days of life.

Senate Bill No. 1537 or the proposed “Healthy and Bulilit Act” was approved with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention.

The bill was co-authored by 15 senators, namely Senators Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, Ralph G. Recto, Juan Edgardo M. Angara, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Cynthia A. Villar, Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, Loren B. Legarda, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Richard J. Gordon, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Gregorio B. Honasan II and Leila M. de Lima.

Under the proposed measure, the government would provide a comprehensive strategy to address health and nutrition of children as well as institutionalize and scale up health investment plans in the regional and local government units.

The government would also be mandated to prioritize and implement nutrition programs for pregnant and lactating women as well as infants and young children.

The bill also identified the child’s first 1,000 days as a “golden window” for development, with potential effects on curbing stunted growth and improving cognitive development.

“Ensuring that every child receives the adequate nutrition and is provided the critical health services during this window can yield dividends for a lifetime, allowing them to perform better in school, more effectively fight off diseases, earn more as an adult and become healthy, productive citizens,” Ms. Hontiveros said in a statement.

The bill would also strengthen the implementation of Executive Order No. 51 or the “Milk Code,” as well as Republic Act 10028 or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009,” which promotes optimal infant feeding and maternity protection.

Mr. Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health, noted that the proposed measure would also help curb maternal deaths.

“It is our vision to empower our local government units and other stakeholders to see the benefits of having a healthier society through the delivery of maternal and neonatal health services,” he said in a statement.