The Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger, and CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) launched a joint program called “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Partnering to improve maternal health in the Philippines” this month with the aim to decrease the high maternal mortality rate in the Philippines, thus helping to address the country’s poor performance on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5. This project is made possible with the generous support and partnership of Johnson & Johnson.
The program kicked off with more than 1,700 women attending a two-day community health fair in Palawan on October 18 and 19. Microfinance clients from ASA Philippines and CARD MRI as well as women from the local community came for routine gynecological examinations and ultrasounds for pregnant women, with results provided immediately. The event is the first of five community-based “Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby” health fairs planned for the project.
- Puerto Princesa
- 831 women got a checkup
- 111 women were pregnant (82 CARD clients and 29 ASA Philippines clients)
- 901 women got a checkup
- 126 women were pregnant (83 CARD clients and 43 ASA Philippines clients)
Camille Rivera, senior program associate at the Microcredit Summit Campaign, interviewed two health care workers at the health fair in Puerto Princesa: Ria, who is a midwife, and Arlene, who is a nurse.
Both Ria and Arlene were providing health education to the women attending the health fair. Arlene works as a nurse at an OB-GYN’s private practice, and it was her first time working with poor women. Ria works in one of the area’s barangays (or neighborhoods) and has worked with poor women before. This was the first time both of them had ever worked at a health fair.
What were their lectures about?
Arlene lectured about family planning and breastfeeding, and Ria lectured on pre- and post-natal care and nutrition during pregnancy.
Why were they were taking part in the health fair and what did they take away?
Arlene had an interest in trying it out; this was her first time providing information to a large group of people. Both Arlene and Ria said that it was a good experience because it provided them with more information and additional perspectives on how to work with the poor.
What did they hope the outcome would be through the training?
Arlene wants women to be aware of the symptoms and any signs of danger during pregnancy, and she wants them to be aware of the various types of family planning strategies that they can use. Ria said that beyond the goal of reducing maternal mortality, she just really wants the women to realize the importance of seeing health professionals.
The Philippines Department of Health (DOH) requires that midwives to see everyone in their “area of responsibility”–even in rural areas. If the DOH requires that midwives see everyone, then why are mortality rates in the Philippines so high?
Arlene and Ria both explained that one reason is that, in rural areas, there is a lack of manpower. There is often only one midwife to see hundreds or thousands of women, so she just doesn’t have time to see them more than once in a pregnancy.
Cecilia and Joy Ann
Rivera also spoke to Cecilia, a CARD MRI client who received a loan to open a sari sari (or convenience) store after her husband had kidney failure. Cecilia and her young daughter, Joy Ann, came from their village for their checkups at the health fair. This event last weekend was Cecilia’s first time ever getting a routine gynecological exam from an OB-GYN. Four general practitioners, thirteen OB-GYNs, and one sonologist provided their services at no charge, and sonogram results were available immediately.
About the Health and Microfinance Alliance
The Health and Microfinance Alliance (HMA) is an initiative led by the Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger with the idea of cultivating “communities of practice” for the global expansion of integrated microfinance and health, which is the delivery of health products and services using the platform of microfinance. The HMA seeks to influence the way that practitioners, thought leaders, policymakers, and funders approach healthcare delivery and poverty alleviation for the world’s poorest. For the past several years, the HMA has been working with microfinance institutions and self-help groups in India to address the link between ill health and poverty and currently reaches nearly 1 million women and their families. The “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies” project serves to expand the HMA to the Philippines.