EDITORIAL: Act up, it’s not only COVID
The Philippine health official reported a 121% increase in typhoid fever cases in the country compared to last year where there were only 4,102 cases. However, the cases doubled to 9,057, according to the Department of Health (DOH), during the same period in the current year.
More than 5% or 1,801 cases were recorded in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), followed by Northern Mindanao with 1,225 cases and Central Visayas with 1,017.
A factor that needs to be addressed is the lack of awareness and education in terms of medical and cleanliness aspects. Most case surges happened in less urbanized areas such as Northern Mindanao and the Cordillera mountains. The National Library of Medicine released a study that correlates the prevalence of typhoid fever and its contraction through contaminated water and food to the patient’s level of education. The study revealed that the correlation had become a challenge to public health in areas where typhoid fever is still endemic.
Health-related problems have simple solutions that only demand manpower and adequate compensation to the ones assigned to such work. The government should allot a budget and increase in salary to both educators and health workers that could educate the community to prevent the ballooning number of possible cases. The demand by teachers and health workers remains unresolved. On September 4, the Alliance of Health Workers arranged a protest to call for the release of their benefits and demand a salary increase.
On October 4, in celebration of teacher’s day, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) filed a petition signed by more than 50 thousand educators demanding a salary increase to improve the welfare of teachers. Statista released a study showing that in 2018, approximately 5.1 million Filipino workers were paid hourly with less than two-thirds of the minimum wage.
According to the guideline posted on the website of the DOH, typhoid fever is more common in areas of the world where handwashing is less frequent, and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage. Typhoid Fever’s transmission mode is ingesting food and water contaminated with human waste. Moreover, in the report released by the WHO-UNICEF in 2020, 47.46% of Filipinos get enough clean water.
In this case, the clean water problem has been pinpointed. Since time immemorial, clean water has been our problem, and it needs to be addressed because the risk is on people’s health.
In addition to that, proper waste management is a big issue. It has lots of detrimental effects on human health. Government should’ve learned its lessons since the cholera outbreak in 1904, where 166,252 cases have been listed, among which is 109,461 deaths, when water became a huge problem. Furthermore, laws and proposed solutions need to be recognized, funded, and implemented, like The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.
The typhoid death toll has increased in 2022, with 43 more than three times the total (12) during the same period last year.
LGU’s health sector should monitor and take action during an unusual surge in cases of typhoid in an area by having competent and skilled health workers. The mortality rate in diseases such as typhoid can be prevented if facilities are equipped with the tools needed to address local health concerns because aside from the problem of typhoid, there are also problems involving lung, skin, and other health diseases across the country.
A social sciences researcher of De La Salle University, Zaldy Collado, pointed out that aside from geographic problems, most communities in rural areas are rooted in underfinanced and undermanned health facilities. This problem scopes the lack of equipment, facilities and health professional workers.
The study shows how the Philippines is far behind in health aspects. Therefore, we badly need a competent DOH secretary at this time. We must focus on education and health as it scopes the general public’s welfare. We are not only facing a pandemic in the name of COVID-19, we are facing long overdue health issues waiting to be resolved.
Since the ascendancy of Bongbong Marcos to the presidency, no secretary was appointed in the country’s health department. Although there is an Officer-in-charge in the name of undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, she still cannot freely move the way an official head should. Planning was lacking, and appointees on different health aspects have not been so sufficient and efficient.
It is a challenge to every aspect of the health department to submit research showing the root of this issue. Also, the government’s incompetence should be lessened and focus on problems that really affect its people. LGU should require an in-house doctor that could cater to every kind of medical health problem in their area. Moreover, in every community, a local public pharmacy must be built where medicines are available to be given.
It is pivotal to have a facility equipped with materials and tools health representatives can use anytime, and health monitoring should also be done. The government should dig deeper to find out the root of health issues in the country. The administration must take care of and prioritize public welfare. Promises during an election must be completed and should not be kept as words of persuasion. Cases of any disease can be lessened with good and competent leadership.