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PIA Press Release

Health advocates promote zinc in diarrhea management

General Santos City (20 September) -- More health advocates are now promoting Zinc as another and effective treatment to manage diarrhea in the Philippines.

In a launching Tuesday of "Zinc Intervention Promotion Strategy for Diarrhea Management in Sarangani," Dr. Cecilia Acuin, associate professor, University of the Philippines, National Health Institute said "diarrhea continues to be the leading cause of child's death" worldwide.

The zinc health intervention promotion program is a formative research on diarrhea particularly at the grassroots community, which will be piloted in Maasim, Kiamba, and Maitum, three of the seven municipalities of Sarangani participating in the Child Survival Program under the International Aid (IA)-financed Maximizing Access to Child Health (MATCH) Program.

Dr. Acuin said the use of zinc to manage diarrhea is recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). It is widely used in other countries but has not been introduced yet in the Philippines.

"Zinc has been found to reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea and prevent subsequent episodes" of such a disease in a trial study involving 2,002 children aged 2 to 59 months.

Acuin said the study has "concluded that zinc was acceptable and feasible to implement in developing countries" describing it as "dispersible tablet form that is likely to be more useful in public health because it is cheaper, easier to store and distribute."

Aside from the use of zinc, the research project will also introduce the reformulated Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), with lower sodium and glucose found to be very effective during a child's bout of diarrhea.

Dr. Acuin said 3 million of children die every year, 99 percent of which comes from developing countries.

In Sarangani, diarrhea is the second leading cause of child mortality and morbidity, according to a baseline survey from the three piloted municipalities of Maasim, Kiamba, and Maitum.

The survey showed that 43.3 percent of children less than 2 years have been found to have diarrhea episode in the 2 weeks preceding the survey.

Of these results, the indigenous people in the upland have higher episodes of diarrhea compared to 32.1 percent non-upland dwellers.

The results, among other things, also revealed disparity "of the rural population in areas of education, access to health services, and access to written communication and media."

Likewise "only 5 percent of the indigenous people had access to piped or covered well water and 27 percent to flush toilet."

Dr. Alan Talens, International Aid program director was confident that the research project will have a greatest chance of success and will help find solutions to the problem on diarrhea.

He noted that the delivery of health care has posed a challenge to health workers considering they had to cross rivers many times to reach far-flung areas in the province.

But Talens emphasized that although it is the households and the community that should carry the "burden of responsibility" for the health of the child, IA is committed to improve child health status and care giving practices among grassroots.

"Behavior of the mother is also important to make the child survive" during diarrhea episode, he added.

Dr. Antonio Yasana also stressed that the conduct of formative research will determine the viability and operational needs of introducing zinc as diarrhea case management with Sarangani as testing ground.

"With this study, we hope to come up with a culturally accepted strategy to promote zinc as adjunct management to diarrhea cases," he said.

The research which will be undertaken by IA, Westat, University of the Philippines and the Sarangani Provincial Health Office, would also aid the government identify critical issues that need to be addressed by policy programs thru the Dept. of Health.

The pilot study is part of the Child Survival Program being implemented by IA in partnership with the provincial government of Sarangani and USAID Mission in Manila.

International Aid is a faith-based, health focused, non-profit relief development agency committed to global health care by making quality health services available to world's poor.

In the Philippines, IA is implementing MATCH program designed to reduce burden associated to diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition among children under five years old.

Governor Migs Dominguez was optimistic that the disparity experienced by the upland communities in basic social services would be bridged ultimately with continuous hardwork and teamwork from all stakeholders. (CTA/PIA SarGen) [top]

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