Sto. Tomas, Batangas—More than 200 women from Sto. Tomas, Batangas participated in a mass demonstration of the correct way to self-examine one's breasts to highlight its critical role in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, one of the top causes of death among women in the Philippines.
The event, dubbed “Sariling Salat ng Suso,” marked the March 8 International Women’s Day as well as the proclamation rally of Anakalusugan (Alagaan Natin Ating Kalusugan), the sole party-list running on a health platform in the May 13 midterm polls.
“We in Anakalusugan do not represent a province or a region, nor do we claim to represent marginalized sectors such as workers or fisherfolk, among others. We represent the whole nation—rich and poor, young and old —because health knows no political color nor economic class. Sa Anakalusugan, una ang kalusugan,” said party-list nominee Mike Defensor.
“Health is our priority and our advocacy. We will make sure that PhilHealth and the Department of Health deliver the services expected of them, and that our laws are relevant and health services are accomplished. Kami ang kakampi ng bawat Pilipino sa kalusugan,” he added.
The party-list group’s three-point priority health agenda are as follows: ensure that all maintenance medicines are given free of charge under PhilHealth; provide free diagnostic tests; and allocate a fixed amount of allowance for barangay health workers and barangay nutrition scholars.
Anakalusugan nominee Ower Andal said providing free diagnostic tests and maintenance medicines are crucial for both preventive and curative aspects of healthcare.
“It is a great disservice to our kababayans that in 2016, at least 60 percent of Filipinos who died of medical reasons were not even able to see a doctor. You need a blood test or a diagnostic exam to get a proper prescription and accurately identify your illness, but in rural areas, the nearest hospital or clinic may be several towns away. The cost of these tests as well as that of maintenance medicines are also prohibitive,” Andal said.
For his part, Anakalusugan nominee Darlo Ginete underscored how the recent measles outbreak highlighted the important role played by barangay health workers and nutrition scholars.
“They are our unsung heroes – our bagong bayani who are on the frontline in delivering medical services to our kababayans, especially in areas where there are no public doctors. We should take care of them by ensuring they get just compensation in the form of allowance and other incentives for taking care of our health,” Ginete said.
The “Sariling Salat ng Suso” was jointly organized by Anakalusugan and its project, Klinika Ng Bayan, which gives free diagnostic tests and medicines in its facility in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
“The increasing number of breast cancer cases should be a cause of alarm for all of us – not just for women but also for men whose mothers, wives, sisters, and female friends are all at risk of contracting the disease,” said Dr. Arnie Marasigan-Aguirre.
According to the World Health Organization, one out of four women who are diagnosed with breast cancer die within the first five years.
“What is even more alarming is that 70 percent of breast cancer cases involve women without known risk factors,” said Dr. Arlene Dominguita.
The Philippines currently has the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia, with one in every 13 Filipino women expected to develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Defensor said the party-list group wants to expand the Breast Cancer Medicines Access Program of the Department of Health to more areas in Visayas and Mindanao.
“Expanding the access sites will ensure that more women can avail of the medical facilities and free cancer drugs,” he said.
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