Educational Outreach in the Philippines

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~Nelson Mandela

One of the challenges we are seeing in the field has been the lack of education on basic medical procedures from community members and patients we have been transporting to their cataract surgeries. We are witnessing how patients are postponing their surgeries around planting seasons because they believe that there is a six month recovery period from cataract surgery. This is untrue, as the recovery time is about 1 day, although caution with heavy lifting for 1 month may also be recommended.

Educational outreach is pivotal in our mission, especially when our birthing and women’s center becomes operational. Alay Foundation will be using a comprehensive and long-term approach to caring for pregnant women. We will be encouraging our patients to get prenatal care at our facilities and giving them prenatal vitamins to take throughout their pregnancies. We will also be giving six weeks of post natal maternal care and one year of post natal pediatric care.

Many poor women in the Philippines do not get any pre-natal care or take pre-natal vitamins. We are finding that there are 2 main reasons for this: (1) they lack the financial resources and (2) they do not see prenatal care as a priority.

Alay Foundation will vigorously work to address these issues by doing educational outreach in San Jose City and the surrounding communities. Meanwhile, our work continues with enrolling patients in Philhealth, plans being finalized on birthing center construction and transporting patients.

In light of these challenges, we now have one of our team members in the Philippines conducting field research on other basic health care misconceptions. Our goal is to find out what types of educational outreach are needed most in the San Jose area that we can provide.

Mary’s Child Birthing & Women’s Center

Front of proposed birthing center.

Maternal health is central to Alay Foundation’s mission and the high maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is a critical issue we aim to alleviate with the opening of our first facility. According to the United Nations Population Fund, In the Philippines, as of 2012, 221 women die for every 100,000 live births and over 4,000 women die each year for preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth. This disturbing reality is why we are choosing to build a modernized birthing center as our first facility.

Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center will be located in San Jose City, across the street from the Heart of Jesus Hospital. Alay Foundation has a working relationship with the Heart of the Jesus Hosptial, a private local institution, who have agreed to take any obstetrical emergencies such as c-sections, emergency hysterectomy, or prolonged labor. The proximity to such a respected medical facility strengthens our ability to address any and all complications during delivery that are beyond the scope of the birthing center’s services. Our patients well-being is our utmost concern. The birthing center will be just that – a center for the community improving the conditions under which women give birth.

The land for the birthing center has been acquired and there was a small groundbreaking ceremony in May 2014 where Alay’s founder dedicated the construction project to the community. Architectural plans are still in the final editing phase and are being prepared to submit to the Department of Health for approval. The facility will encompass an examination room, 2 separate birthing rooms, and semi-private recovery room holding up to 4 women and their newborns. For the waiting area we are equipping the room with televisions playing recordings of Alay Foundation’s educational podcasts. The plans are designed to accommodate future expansions to the facility.

We are very excited to get started and we will keep you posted on further details of the Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center.

Maternal Mortality in the Philippines and the UN Millennium Development Goals

Sheila Casey serves as secretary of Alay Foundation’s Board of Directors and assists in many administrative roles for Alay Foundation in the US. She has been instrumental in the forming of Alay Foundation’s mission, vision and goals, along with our growing list of program initiatives. Sheila is a long-time supporter and advocate of women’s health and will be blogging here frequently.

Nearly fifteen years ago a daring undertaking by the United Nations community set forth the Millennium Development Goals – a raft of initiatives aimed at ridding the world of extreme poverty and its attendant perils by 2015. With the deadline fast approaching we are taking a moment to assess where the Philippines stands in its attempt to meet Goal 5, specifically:

Goal 5 – Improve maternal health

  • Target 5.A – Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015 the maternal mortality ratio
  • Target 5.B – Achieve by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

As of 2012, the Philippines Department of Health reports the country’s maternal mortality ratio to be 221 women dying per 100,000. In some of the poorest regions that figure increases to 320 women dying. The United Nations estimates that 11 Filipina women die each day from “preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth.” Sadly, that amounts to over 4,000 women dying annually leaving grieving orphans, widows / partners, and families behind.

The UN’s Millennium Development Goal is set at reducing maternal mortality to 52 deaths per 100,000. Clearly, it is not likely the Philippines will be in a position to achieve that target. With less than 500 days left before the 2015 deadline is reached, Alay Foundation is working hard to finalize its plans for our birthing center in San Jose and is implementing our health education and outreach efforts in the region. With the opening of the birthing center we will offer pre-natal, delivery, and post-partum care for expectant mothers in a safe and sterile environment attended by skilled health care providers. Women in the community will be encouraged to seek the birthing center rather than relying on traditional birth attendants in the home. Our birthing center will work hand-in-hand with the midwives who play an important role in both the pre-natal and delivery processes.

Additionally, family planning will be an important component of the birthing center’s health care services with the hope that with greater access to reproductive health choices women will be able to make informed decisions in planning, spacing, or preventing future pregnancies. Initially, we are limited to offering counseling, condoms, and contraceptive pills but will be able to refer women and their families to facilities offering comprehensive family planning services and resources.

We will continue to follow developments in the Philippines closely as maternal health is central to our mission of guaranteeing access to quality health care for all Filipinos. We will keep you posted…

Cataract and Cleft Lip Surgery Update

On May 13, 2014 Alay Foundation, in collaboration with our fellow organization KDF, hosted our first event: Free Catartact Surgery Screening and Reading Glasses Distribution Day. Patients were also screened for free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries and new prosthesis fittings.

Alay Foundation saw a total of 555 people, gave away 199 pairs of eyeglasses, scheduled 97 people for cataract surgery, 5 people will be fitted and given new prostheses, and 4 people scheduled for cleft lip and cleft palate  surgeries which have been completed along with follow up visits. See pictures the families allowed us to share with you on https://www.facebook.com/ASBNS

Cataract Surgeries are still being completed and Alay Foundation has been and will continue transporting patients to KDF facilities for their scheduled appointments. So far we have completed 45 cataract surgeries and have 52 more to go. Two patients have been given their new prostheses and we are waiting for four more to schedule their follow-up appointments. All in all, progress is being made and we are committed to getting patients to their scheduled surgeries.

KDF, is a local Philippine charity that has been working in our neighboring region, Pampanga, in the Philippines since 1987. They provide disability programs and maternal and child health programs. Alay Foundation has been warmly welcomed by KDF to the community of dedicated volunteers and professionals working to help alleviate the suffering of the poor in the Philippines. KDF has taken Alay Foundation under its wing and will be providing us with advice and help that only an organization with experience such as KDF can give. You can find out more about KDF and the work they do on their Facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/KapampanganDevelopmentFoundation .

We look forward to working closely with KDF in serving the community by helping to raise the standard of healthcare for the poor in the Philippines.

Welcome to Alay Foundation’s Official Blog 

For the poor in the Philippines, quality healthcare is more then just a hardship, its a financial impossibility.  Many poor families go without basic healthcare options, such as giving birth in a medical facility with a trained professional.  Instead, these families rely on untrained “birthing attendants” and in some case, unsanitary kitchen tables to deliver their babies.  As a result, infant mortality and maternal death in the Philippines is above average for the region.

Alay Foundation is a new charitable organization that provides help to women, children, and families living in extreme poverty in the San Jose area of the Philippines, giving them access to quality healthcare.

Alay Foundation is working to reduce poverty and help the poor gain access to quality health care in the Philippines in two ways: (1) enrolling women and families in Philhealth, (the Philippine national health insurance program that allows families to purchase health insurance for $60 and covers an entire family for one year) free of charge and (2) by building healthcare facilities with no balance billing.  One of the main problems in the Philippines is that doctors and other health care professionals are balance billing patients instead of just accepting what Philhealth pays, for the indigent population. This leaves poor families unable to afford quality healthcare in the Philippines.

These are the issues Alay Foundation was founded to tackle. Our plan of action is to focus on empowering families by building a bridge between those who need the most and the quality healthcare that everyone deserves.