Medicine Cabinet


In 2021, 2,478 Filipino women died due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Moreover, 14% of pregnant women in the country do not get regular check-ups and the other necessary medical care that they need during their pregnancy. One in 10 Filipino women do not give birth in health facilities or receive assistance from skilled healthcare personnel during childbirth.

During the recent Health Connect media forum with the theme “Healthy Mom, Happy Baby: Advocating for Safe Motherhood,” maternal health experts delved into the challenges Filipino women face, from preconception to postpartum. The forum also highlighted the need for comprehensive policies and multi-stakeholder collaboration to improve maternal and child care.

Health Connect is led by the Philippine Medical Association, the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), and its member Sanofi.

Dr. Maria Lorena Santos, president of the Philippine Infectious Diseases Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology, revealed that their organization has been working with Representative Ciriaco Gato, Jr. (Batanes, Lone District) on the enactment into law of House Bill 9354 which provides for comprehensive maternal healthcare, including immunization for pregnant women.

There are other maternal health-related bills currently pending in Congress. Senate Bill No. 1416 or “An Act Safeguarding the Health of Filipino Mothers at the Time of Their Childbirth” authored by Senator Mark Villar aims to ensure the health and welfare of women throughout their pregnancy and during delivery of a child.

Meanwhile, House Bill 5684 or “An Act Safeguarding the Health of Filipino Mothers at the Time of Their Childbirth” authored by Representative Camille Villar (Las Piñas City, Lone District) aims to reduce maternal deaths by providing birthing facilities for every barangay in the country.

Representatives Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr. (Camarines Sur, 2nd District), Miguel Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur, 5th District), and Tsuyoshi Horibata (Camarines Sur, 1st District) filed House Bill 2888 or “An Act to Ensure Every Pregnant Woman’s Access to A Skilled Birth Attendant at the Time of Childbirth and Immediately Thereafter” otherwise known as the Bantay Buntis Act.

In his video message shown during the media forum, Senator Villar affirmed his strong support for enhancing maternal and child care in the country. “I am your ally in pushing for legislation advocating our cause.”

Dr. Tania Verora, maternal and child health coordinator of the Pasig City Government, presented their National Safe Motherhood Program (NSMP) activities. These include capacity building on maternal care for health staff; advocacy and social mobilization to raise awareness on maternal and child care such as Usapang Buntis lay forums, Pocket Buntis, Buntis Caravan, and community focus group discussions, among others. In terms of logistics, the Pasig City Health Office procures mother and baby kits, micronutrient supplements, maternal vaccines, and laboratory tests to screen for gestational diabetes.

Ruby Lucasan, midwife supervisor of the Quezon City Health Department, discussed their Maternal Health Care Program which provides a comprehensive core package of services for pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, delivery, postpartum and newborn care. Their advocacy activities include a mobile laboratory for pregnant women, Usapang Buntis lay forums, Buntis Assembly, Buntis Tour, adolescent health lectures, coordination meetings with barangays particularly for enforcement of local ordinances prohibiting home births, and inspection of private lying-in clinics among others.

In line with the Universal Health Care Act, the Quezon City Health department performs paperless e-referrals through their primary care provider network and healthcare provider network to local government unit hospitals (the Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital and the Quezon City General Hospital) and an apex hospital (East Avenue Medical Center).

PFV executive director Dr. Lulu Bravo lauded the maternal and child health initiatives of the Pasig City and Quezon City, and encouraged other LGUs to emulate these initiatives. She also paid tribute to midwives and their vital role in maternal and child care. “Midwives are our heroes,” she said.

Dr. Bravo underscored the importance of maternal immunization in preventing vaccine-preventable diseases like influenza that can cause severe complications in pregnant women such as pneumonia. The Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society recommends pregnant women receive the influenza vaccine; Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis) vaccine or Td (Tetanus and Diphtheria) vaccine, Hepatitis A vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, and other inactivated vaccines.

PMA president Dr. Minerva Calimag highlighted the need to empower mothers with the right health information and the vital role of media in promoting health literacy. She encouraged journalists to disseminate the information discussed during the Health Connect media forum.

No woman should die while giving life. A whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach are important in addressing maternal health issues and improving maternal health outcomes. Motherhood should be a cause for celebration, and this can only happen if we provide the right environment for the mother and her child to thrive and be free from preventable health concerns.


Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). PHAP represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are in the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos.