Press Release
October 8, 2012

Legarda: PHL to Reach MDG Target on Child Mortality
with 100% Newborn Screening Coverage

Senator Loren Legarda urged government agencies, health institutions, local government officials, and the private sector to unite in meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goal Target on child mortality by ensuring 100% Newborn Screening Coverage through the full implementation of the Republic Act 9288, also known as the "Newborn Screening Act of 2004".

"While I welcome the 26.4 percent increase in Newborn Screening coverage as noted in a report conducted by the University of the Philippines, the National Institutes of Health, and the Newborn Screening Reference Center, I believe that we can still do better as we bridge the communication gap and expand screening for Filipino newborns," Legarda said in her privilege speech.

"If we were able to jump from 15.6% in 2007 to 42% in 2011, the vision of providing newborns, regardless of socio-economic status, with a comprehensive, affordable, and accessible newborn screening should not be out of reach," she added.

Legarda, who authored the law, also cited a United Nations Development Programme report, which noted a 60% decrease in under-five mortality rate in the Philippines for the past 16 years from 80 deaths in 1990, to 32 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006."

"The problem lies with the lack of information and awareness that such procedure is available, especially for those who deliver their babies at home," she said.

"With only three years left until the deadline to reduce child mortality, our government needs all the help and support it can get to save our children from unnecessary death," the legislator noted.

Newborn screening, which must be done one to three days after birth, is a public health program aimed at early detection of genetic or metabolic conditions, which may lead to severe mental retardation, cataract, anemia, and even death if left untreated. Newborn babies of the poorest 5.2 million families identified by the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction can avail of free newborn screening as part of PhilHealth's Newborn Care Package.

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