Gov’t researchers call for country-specific OFW health briefings

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migrant worker OFW

THE National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) said Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) must be given country-specific health awareness programs in their pre-departure briefings.

NRCP, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), reported in a recent study that health problems experienced by OFWs are correlated to the country and industry they work in.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said on Tuesday: “Pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS) must include country-specific health awareness programs so since magkakaiba ang problema sa iba’t-ibang countries” (there are specific health problems to watch out for in each country) and called for orientations that include “health awareness programs for each country.”

The PDOS is mandatory for all OFWs who are about to leave for work overseas. The seminar discusses cultural differences, immigration policy, and employment concerns of a host country that OFWs need to take note of.

According to the study by the NCRP, a majority of OFWs deployed to the Americas (92%), Asia (80%), Europe (71%), and the Middle East (56%) said they never experienced health problems before they left the Philippines.

NRCP member and the study’s author Veronica E. Ramirez said that common illnesses experienced by OFWs also mirror the culture of the host country .

“Hypertension is due to excessive intake of salty food; stress; lack of sleep; and fatigue. Digestive problems are due to irregular meal intake especially for domestic workers, (who) wait for their employers to eat first, and only then can they eat… urinary problems (could be due to) limited water supply in the Middle East and inaccessible toilets,” she said.

Her study also looked into medical claims of OFWs from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). The study showed that household domestic workers were the top occupation making OWWA medical claims, while 68% of medical claims were generated by OFWs in the Middle East.

Top health problems experienced by OFWs also vary by occupation. Some 26% of household domestic workers reported experiencing reproductive diseases; while 35% of service workers reported cardiovascular disease. About 31% of technicians and electricians, experienced urinary/excretory diseases, while 36% of plant/machine operators experienced diseases of the endocrine system. — Gillian M. Cortez