During the first-ever National Summit on Prematurity and Low Birth Weight, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) launched new benefit packages for premature infants and small newborns. By next year, new moms and their babies will be able to avail of these packages which include treatment and services for basic care to more complex care for those who need it.
The Philippines’ low birth weight figure is the highest in Southeast Asia at 21 percent, said Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial during the summit. Complications due to preterm birth and low birth weight result to more than one million deaths globally each year, with those who survive in the risk of suffering lifelong physical, neurological and educational disability, says the DOH in a release.
“In the Philippines, 60% of newborn deaths are due to complications brought about by prematurity and low birth weight,” saysUnited Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), who provided technical assistance in crafting the packages.
“The cost of saving preterm and small babies has been economically catastrophic to many families, both rich and poor. True to the tenets of the Philippine Health Agenda, it is very timely that we address financial protection of these families and universal healthcare for their newborns,” says Dr. Ubial.
The benefit package, called the Z Benefits for Premature and Small Newborns, will provide necessary care to moms at risk of premature delivery and babies suffering preterm and low birth weight complications. It will be available to all PhilHealth members in selected government and private health facilities.
Medication Coverage that range from P600 to P3,000 can include medication to treat preeclampsia and eclampsia, and antenatal corticosteroids for pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery to help develop the baby’s lungs.
Hospital transfer Coverage of P4,000 can include a pregnant woman’s transfer to a health facility that can provide the specialized care needed by the mother and child.
Baby’s benefits Coverage for infants can range from P24,000 to P135,000, which can include specialized care (kangaroo mother care and Unang Yakap, for example) for premature babies and newborns with a low birth weight.
“We see this policy as a game-changer which could help the country in further lowering child mortality. UNICEF will continue to work with government partners to ensure its proper implementation and increase its availability for all Filipino mothers and children,” says UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Lotta Sylwander.
According to Dr. Ubial, newborn deaths due to complications brought about by prematurity and low birth weight are preventable by doing the following: managing pregnancy complications with medication, breastfeeding newborns and kangaroo mother care, or making sure mother and child get skin-to-skin contact after birth. Pregnant women must also make sure they get quality prenatal care and adequate nutritious food to help ensure baby’s proper development.