To help ensure that all learners have access to basic primary health so that they can attain their full educational potential, the Department of Education recently spearheaded the Oplan Kalusugan sa DepEd (OK sa DepEd) multi-stakeholder program, in partnership with the Department of Health and local government units.
In Legazpi City, Albay, OK sa DepEd was recently launched in collaboration with the DOH - Center for Health Development Bicol and the Legazpi City Health Office.
The health-centric program, held at Puro Elementary School, gathered around 250 participants composed of teachers, parents, and students with local government officials and representatives from the DepEd and DOH.
OK sa DepEd serves as a convergence of sustainable and holistic health and nutrition programs that aim to educate students, parents, and teachers on healthier behaviors that can result in better learning outcomes particularly for students.
The program includes health activities featuring the five major DepEd school health initiatives namely School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP), National Drug Education Program (NDEP), Adolescent Reproductive Health Education (ARH), Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools (WinS) Program, and other nursing, dental, and medical services.
To extend and strengthen the program’s goals and promote a healthy and safe environment for learners, the OK sa DepEd implementation in Legazpi City included the School-Based Immunization (SBI) Program of the DOH.
The SBI serves as an optimal strategy in the prevention of life-threatening diseases so that schools would become healthier places for learners to thrive.
In his opening remarks, Nelson Morales, Jr., Schools Division Superintendent officer-in-charge, emphasized the importance of immunization in strengthening the health foundation of children.
“We not only welcome you to this occasion but also appeal for your continuous support to sustain these initiatives. Children’s health cannot wait and therefore, we acknowledge the fact that we cannot do it all alone,” he said.
Throughout history, vaccination has been proven as one of the most effective ways of safeguarding lives against diseases.
With the help of vaccines, the burden of infectious diseases has been reduced and some vaccine-preventable diseases were even eliminated such as smallpox.
The SBI Program endeavors to reach out to a wider community and broaden vaccination coverage, especially among the youth, so that no Filipino would have to suffer from a vaccine-preventable disease.
DepEd’s support for the SBI Program is targeted to help the DOH build a more resilient health system for immunization, with the vision of eliminating diseases like measles, diphtheria, tetanus, and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, to name a few.
The OK sa DepEd multi-stakeholder program introduced HPV vaccination as part of the SBI Program in Albay. The event included a lecture that helped spread knowledge and awareness of HPV, the diseases that can develop from it, and how to protect oneself from the virus.
A ceremonial HPV vaccination was also held, to mark the beginning of the implementation of the SBI Program across schools in Legazpi City.
Making HPV vaccination more accessible to a catch population of young students is a key step in supporting the DOH roadmap towards a cervical cancer-free Philippines by the year 2040.
According to medical officer Dr. June Orense, “The best time to give the vaccine is when individuals, especially women, are still young, before they are exposed to the virus.”
HPV is a common infection transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or sexual activity. It is the leading cause of cervical cancer among women, with more than 7,000 diagnosed and close to 4,000 dying from the disease every year, according to data from the DOH. This burden makes cervical cancer the second most frequent cancer among women in the Philippines.
HPV infection is also linked to genital warts and anal cancer among men and women, vaginal and vulvar cancer in women, and penile cancer in men.
Cervical cancer and these HPV-related diseases are vaccine-preventable. Administering HPV vaccine to children, especially to young girls, is recommended so that they gain protection even before they are exposed to the virus.