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PIA Press Release

Angara allocates P100M for telemedicine deployment in 2009 budget

Manila (5 February) -- Senator Edgardo J. Angara announced today that he allocated P100 million in the 2009 National Budget for the deployment of telemedicine sites in the country, this he said during the First Quarter (Q1) 2009 update of the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) at the Senate.

"As the Global Financial Crisis pinches on the lives of every Filipino especially the poor, we must intensify our efforts and increase budgetary allocations on social protection programs. Among others, health is a vital component in maintaining a country's viability and competitiveness in times of crisis. Thus, this P100 million allocation for telemedicine is very timely," said Angara who chairs the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

He added, "Our mission to provide quality health care during these tough times of crisis hinges on our capability to innovate and stretch every peso we can get for the health sector. The importance of innovation for better health care is stressed by the fact that we are willing to spend on these innovations and we are willing to deliver these to the public for their betterment."

He stated this in light of the successful limited deployment of telehealth by the National TeleHealth Center of the University of the Philippines Manila, as reported by COMSTE Health Panel chair Dr. Ramon Arcadio, Chancellor of UP Manila. UP Manila is already running the telehealth pilot in their campuses in areas like Cagayan Valley, Tacloban, Capiz and UP Manila.

Telemedicine is the capability enabled by information technology that allows physicians to remotely diagnose and recommend treatment for patients based elsewhere.

Angara, co-chair of the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering, stated that through this innovation, patients from far-flung provinces can save money on transportation expenses on initial diagnosis since proper treatment can be administered through telemedicine. Increasing innovation and funding for health is important especially in the backdrop of a global financial crisis.

According to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the deepening global economic crisis could significantly raise infant mortality and malnutrition rates which provide no reason for governments to cut back on social spending.

Statistics from UNICEF shows that the present economic crisis could lead to a 5-10% increase in anemia among pregnant women and a 10% rise in low birth weights among babies in severely affected countries. Infant mortality is expected to increase between 3% and 10% and the malnutrition rate among children could rise by 10%.

UNICEF also suggested that social protection programs be made an integral part of government stimulus packages aimed at reviving economies. These programs would also mean jobs for teachers, healthcare workers and social workers.

Earlier, health experts raised concerns on shrinking national budgets due to the financial crisis could force governments to cut back on social spending in areas such as health care, nutrition and education, potentially affecting a huge number of children.

COMSTE Executive Director Dr. Gregory Tangonan said that this offers the Philippines a chance to improve its health capabilities in baranggay medicine. The infrastructure can also be linked to future plans for medical tourism, as the Philippines can also offer this remote diagnosis to patients locally as well as abroad.

Congress, upon Angara's initiative, has setup COMSTE to tackle RP's lack of competitiveness in science and technology including research and development. One of the areas covered by COMSTE is the health services sector.

COMSTE is tasked to look at ways to boost R&D spending, keeping in mind that the desired end result should be local industry and job creation, as well as the competitiveness of our products and services. (COMSTE) [top]

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