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20 August 2019

Momentum Builds to Tackle RHD in the Philippines

The team visiting a primary health care centre to talk about RHD prevention and management activities
The team visiting a primary health care centre to talk about RHD prevention and management activities

Reach was in Manila last month working with Filipino country partners to commence an RHD Rapid Situation Assessment. Reach is working in partnership with the Philippines Foundation for the Prevention of RF/RHD, an affiliated organisation of the Philippines Heart Center and the Philippine Heart Association Council on RF/RHD.

Strong advocacy and concerted action from the Philippines Foundation for the Prevention of RF/RHD in recent years has led to the approval in 2018 of a new Philippines National Health Insurance (PhilHealth) outpatient benefit package that enables RHD patients to access benzathine penicillin injections and annual echocardiography free of charge. This is a momentous step to support patients’ access to care, and is a sign of the recognition by senior health decision-makers in the Philippines of the ongoing burden of this disease in the Filipino population and the need for action.

Reach Deputy Executive Director and Head of Country Programmes Dr Sophie La Vincente and Senior Technical Advisor Liz Kennedy were hosted by Dr Juliet Balderas, President of the Foundation for the Prevention of RF/RHD and Chair of the Philippine Heart Association RF/RHD Council, and her team.

Reach and the Philippines Foundation for the Prevention of RF/RHD together met with senior Department of Health and PhilHealth officials to discuss the new benefit package for RHD patients as well as opportunities to build on this momentum to strengthen multi–stakeholder approaches to prevent and control RHD.   

During the visit, a team of doctors were trained by the Reach team to gather baseline data as part of the Rapid Situation Assessment process. In the coming weeks the local team will be collecting and collating data from selected sites around the country. The Rapid Situation Assessment process is intended to  support the identification of priority areas to guide strategic planning by the Foundation for the Prevention and Control of RF/RHD and other national stakeholders.  It represents a timely opportunity to leverage momentum and, together, consider all opportunities for the further advancement of RHD prevention and control in the Philippines

Reach is excited to be working with this dedicated team of health professionals, the self-proclaimed “RF/RHD Warriors”, who are working to eradicate RHD.