WHO ready to benchmark 'Alagang Balon Dagupan' program

October 31, 2014 6:36 am 

DAGUPAN CITY, Oct. 30 — The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to benchmark the landmark program of Dagupan City called “Alagang Balon Dagupan for the Elderly,” (“New Dagupan Cares for the Elderly”) for adoption in all developing countries to benefit elder population when it was presented during a world health forum today, Thursday, at Crowne Plaza in Hong Kong.

Mayor Belen Fernandez outlined the program when she made a 15-minute presentation before delegates from various parts of the world who attended the 6th Global Conference of the Alliance of Healthy Cities sponsored by WHO.

Fernandez said like most cities and municipalities in Northern Philippine region, Dagupan City is still in transition in terms of socio-economic development, demography, and epidemiology, adding that its ageing population, as in other areas, suffers from the double burden of degenerative and communicable diseases.

“While we are generally successful in providing health benefits for the elderly, as evidenced by longer life expectancy among those in said age group, we realize that this lone result cannot fully account for their overall well-being. In measuring our accomplishment in elderly care, we have taken into consideration their quality of life, function, autonomy, self-esteem, and life satisfaction,” Fernandez said.

She said the program Alagang Balon Dagupan for the Elderly takes off from this fact and “advances towards promotive, preventive, curative, and supportive care for senior citizens”.

For the past several years, she said, the leading causes of mortality in the Philippines have been heart diseases, vascular diseases, and malignant neoplasms. These usually refer to heart attack, stroke, and cancers, respectively.

The same is mostly true for Dagupan City based on records in 2013, when heart diseases and vascular diseases were the foremost causes of mortality, accounting for more than 30 percent of all deaths recorded, followed by degenerative disease of the elderly like autoimmune and bone illnesses at 11 percent.

Other causes of mortality included pneumonia, chronic lower respiratory diseases, renal diseases, tuberculosis of all forms, and diabetes mellitus.

It does not help that out of the 100 million Philippine population represented by the aforementioned statistics, 7 million currently belong to the senior citizen sector, with 1.3 million of whom are indigent, she said.

“As such, we have focused our efforts in fighting these diseases and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and living condition for everyone, especially for older persons,” said Fernandez, providing the reason for the program.

“Alagang Balon Dagupan for the Elderly” aims to develop and implement a minimum health package for older persons, pre-financed from local and national funding sources to build and improve a barangay- and institution-based registry for various illnesses and diseases; to enhance leisure time and recreational activities of the elderly; and promote and improve the quality of life of the elderly population through increased productivity and improved health.

Fernandez said for the minimum health package for senior citizens, a bimonthly medical mission exclusively for the elderly called “Panangaro kinen Bai tan Laki” (Love for our grandfather and grandmother), which addresses the medical needs of older persons through regular checkups, provision of flu and pneumonia shots, blood tests for blood sugar and uric acid measurement, and clinical chemistry for cholesterol and triglycerides determination.

This is on top of the regular medical missions conducted in barangays since January this year where 1,005 senior citizens have received pneumo vaccines, while 1,216 have been given flu vaccines. Patients are also reminded to take their maintenance medicines, which can be freely readily acquired during the program.

Correspondingly, private companies like Pfizer Philippines and Mercury Drugstore, as well as civil society organizations such as the Pangasinan Medical Society, have generously sponsored similar medical missions for the elderly, including bone screening and various health examinations.

Senior citizens can also avail outpatient health services from the City Health Office, which is open every day, barangay clinics, and during regular barangay medical missions.

On top of these, the Philippine Health Insurance or PhilHealth cards were given to senior citizens, particularly to those considered indigent. Normally acquired for a minimum cost and requires monthly payment of dues, PhilHealth cards have been given to the elderly without any charge to help them take advantage of greater subsidy in health and other medical services.

On the other hand, the “Panangaro kinen Bai tan Laki” also includes a milk feeding project to ensure the health of the elderly with the support of private companies like Abbott Philippines.

“We (also) recognize the higher vulnerability of senior citizens during natural disasters. As Dagupan is located along one of the major storm tracks in the country, it is crucial that everyone, especially the elderly, is trained to properly respond during times of calamities,” the mayor said.

Hence, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office has been conducting special Family Disaster Preparedness Seminars for senior citizens to equip them with necessary survival skills for any disaster, Fernandez said.

At the same time, the city’s Basic Emergency Life Extending Network or B.E.L.E.N. 16911, which is a local emergency hotline, has responded to 31 cases involving senior citizens from the beginning of this year.

Cited as common reasons for their distress calls included medical conditions such as hypertension, asthma, and heat stroke, vehicular accidents, and the need for transport from hospitals to/from their respective homes.

On the other hand, the “Sight-Saving Project,” another health care initiative, also benefited the elderly citizen by giving them free cataract operation to help them regain their normal eyesight.

Together with doctors from the University of Santo Tomas Hospital and the Inner Wheel Club of Dagupan City, the city has helped restore the eyesight of 100 cataract patients since last year. In this ongoing project, nurses and social workers continue to look for possible beneficiaries.

For senior citizens who needed spectacles, the city has also given away free eyewear and reading glasses and was grateful to a local partner, Mr. Ashok Vasandani, a philanthropist, for graciously providing hundreds of pairs of eye glasses to the elderly.

At the same time, the city collaborated with several individuals and organizations for the provision of wheelchairs to senior citizens for their mobility. Out of the 81 wheelchairs donated by the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Charities, All Nations.Org, Alay sa may Kapansanan, Inc., and Mr. Vasandani, 35 have been given to senior citizens.

The city also strengthened the issuance of Senior Citizen IDs and purchase booklets to help the elderly avail their law-mandated 20 percent discount for various purchases and services, especially for their procurement of medicines and health care assistance.

A city ordinance was also passed increasing the barangay or district budget for older persons in consonance with a national law for barangays to allocate 1 percent of their total annual appropriation to the projects and programs of senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

“Under the proposal for a registry system of diseases, we have started with our database for hearing-impaired citizens. This is in line with our fight against deafness and slow degradation of the sense of hearing of older persons. Acoustic screenings have been conducted by specialists to determine the possible beneficiaries of hearing aids and other necessary equipment,” Fernandez said.

The City Health Office, together with most of our barangay clinics, have also consistently monitored the different medical cases in the city and religiously recorded such for future reference.

At the same time, in order to promote the quality of life of our senior citizens, the city government, together with the Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines in Dagupan City, have come up with various activities that would enhance their leisure time and improve their productivity, as stated in the third and fourth objectives.

Another project, “Lolo/Lola Basyang” (Grandfather and Grandmother) is one way of preserving the cognitive skills of the elderly. It involves senior citizens who volunteer to do storytelling in different preschool centers.

Currently, the city has 33 senior storytellers who receive minimum honorarium for the activity.

Accordingly, older persons who cannot read or write are encouraged to participate in the Literacy Program. So far, around 10 have started receiving free lessons from their co-senior citizens who serve as their teachers.

For a little entertainment, we have teamed up with a local cinema for the provision of free movie passes for the elderly every Tuesday. Now older persons can watch any of the films screened without having to worry about additional expenses.

The mayor said during fiestas, senior citizens are not forgotten. To keep them active, social gatherings and programs are held exclusively for senior citizens to keep their energy up and drive away feelings of loneliness and incapacity.

She announced a new Senior Citizens Recreational Center has been completed and will be ready for use soon.

Fernandez said the “Alagang Balon Dagupan for the Elderly,” has seen a general reduction in the morbidity rate of older persons. More have been made aware of the health assistance projects, as demonstrated by an increase in the number of patients who consult with City Health Office and barangay clinics.

“It is our greatest dream that what we have started, we can maintain and improve for the next generation of older persons. As the City Mayor of Dagupan, I wish for nothing else but the continuous success of our health programs, as I believe that this would not only benefit our citizens, but would greatly contribute in the progress of our city, our country, and eventually, the world,” Fernandez said. (PNA)

LAP/LVM/LVMICUA/RMA

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