Press Release
October 16, 2008

Gordon seeks more funds for health care services
among 17-M public school pupils

Aware of the government's meager allocation for health and nutrition programs for the country's more than 17 million public school pupils, Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today sought more funds for health care services among school children in 43,000 public schools nationwide.

Gordon said equally important in addressing the problem of shortages in education infrastructures is resolving the country's poor school health care situation caused by the lack of funds allocated for health and nutrition programs for pupils.

"Our pupils need not only quality education but also health and nutrition programs to ensure that they will perform well in school because they are properly nourished and physically fit," he said.

The Arroyo administration has proposed an increase from Php2.5 billion to Php3.34 billion the budgetary allocation for the "Malusog na Simula, Yaman ng Bansa" nutrition program under the proposed 2009 General Appropriations Bill.

The feeding program is used to be handled by the Department of Education (DepEd) but has now been transferred to the National Nutrition Council, an attached agency of the Department of Health.

Gordon said next year's proposed budget for feeding program is still not enough to cover the nutrition needs of about 500,000 preschoolers, 2.5 million grade one pupils, and 2 million grade two pupils.

"We need at least six billion pesos to come up with an ideal feeding program, where each student is allocated P10 everyday for 120 days," he pointed out.

"The inadequate fund for feeding programs is just part of a bigger problem. We also have to address the lack of school clinics and clean comfort rooms, and the shortage of health manpower," he added.

Public schools lack health manpower with only 154 medical officers, 617 school dentists, 3,254 school nurses, 570 dental aides, and 32 nutritionist-dieticians for the more than 17 million public school students in the country.

The country's current health personnel-student ratio is at one medical officer is to 80,000 students; one school dentist is to 20,000 students; and one school nurse is to 5,000 students.

"We have to realize that poor health stunts the physical and mental development of children seriously affecting their full potential to become productive citizens of the country," Gordon said.

He explained that once his 'text-for-change' bill, or the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), is enacted into law, health care services among public school pupils would be significantly improved and the needed health and medical personnel would be hired.

Under the HEAP bill, telecommunications companies would remit to the HEAP Corporation a portion of their net profits from local text messaging to generate funds that would be used to finance the country's education and health care requirements.

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