Negros Occidental continues to lead the health and welfare of its entire population, from the very young all the way up to its senior citizens.
According to Dr. Arniel Laurence Portuguez of the San Carlos City health office and Dr. Fernando Fernandez of the Kabankalan City health office, pneumonia has the highest morbidity and mortality rates among senior citizens in their respective localities, placing it as one of the province’s top 10 leading causes of death.
Thus the provincial government of Negros Occidental, led by Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, partnered with the local government units of Kabankalan City and San Carlos City, as well as with the Department of Health and MSD in the Philippines, to kick off “Bakunado si Lolo at Lola, Iwas Pulmonya” pneumonia awareness program.
This multi-stakeholder disease awareness campaign aims to shed light on the real burden of pneumonia especially on the senior citizen population, and how immunization is one of the ways to prevent it.
The campaign also aims to show how the government help paves the way towards protecting the vulnerable elderly against this vaccine-preventable disease. Informative lectures were recently held in Negros Occidental cities, focusing on the importance of vaccination across all life stages in the pursuit of building a healthy citizenry.
Over 1,000 senior citizens from northern and southern Negros Occidental received free pneumonia vaccination from the government after a series of disease awareness and prevention lectures.
Governor Lacson himself was one of the first to receive the shot at the event’s kickoff in San Carlos City, where the respective LGU officials and members of various health sectors were also present.
Lacson acknowledged senior citizens as important members of the community who deserve to be treated with utmost care, and that their health must be considered a priority.
With the looming reality that complications brought by pneumonia remain to be some of the leading causes of death among the elderly, Lacson assured his constituents that the provincial government continually conducts programs in line with the national government’s initiative to provide basic health services to the people.
Republic Act (R.A.) 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 mandates immunization of indigent senior citizens against vaccine-preventable diseases such as pneumonia and influenza. This was made more accessible to the elderly through the National Immunization Program of the DOH.
This program also aims to uphold a strengthened participatory governance for health across the life course, fortified service delivery for older populations, and wellness camps for senior citizens, among others.
In closely partnering with other government agencies like the DOH and local health offices, as well as with private institutions such as global health care company MSD in the Philippines, the province of Negros Occidental is increasing access to better and more sustainable health care for its people.
Lacson continued to appeal to the community leaders in the province for their cooperation in implementing and supporting health programs and campaigns such as the “Bakunado si Lolo at Lola, Iwas Pulmonya” initiative, emphasizing that they know their locality’s needs best.
Mayor Pedro Zayco, Jr. of Kabankalan City is one of the LGU leaders who staunchly support the campaign. The city allocates a sizable annual budget towards necessary health programs for its constituents, including sustaining several health centers, and in reaching out to more communities to address many of the major health concerns there.
With the help of the city’s health office led by Dr. Fernando Fernandez, the LGU continues to strengthen their advocacy on pneumonia by distributing information, education, and communication (IEC) materials, leaflets, and posters as complement to their ongoing awareness campaign. According to Fernandez, following the success of their ‘Bakunado’ campaign, the city will conduct a regular Senior Citizens’ Day to urge the elders to avail of the LGU’s free health program.
Meanwhile, Negros Occidental Provincial Health Officer Dr. Ernell Tumimbang urged senior citizens to visit their barangay health centers to get immunization to prevent them from being sick, especially that elder people may have weak immune system.
“Don’t assume that you’re okay, visit the health centers for consultation because your health is very important,” he said.
Tumimbang emphasized that vaccination is a big help to fight pneumonia among the elders.
Meanwhile, San Carlos City health officer Dr. Arniel Laurence Portuguez, one of the stakeholders in attendance at one of the awareness campaign runs, urged senior citizens and their caregivers to take advantage of the free health initiatives provided by the government such as the pneumonia vaccination.
“There is no problem in providing vaccination, because they are available in their respective health centers. They just need to take advantage of this free immunization program as soon as possible,” he said, adding that this would significantly lessen the incidence of the disease in the region.
Pneumonia –a disease brought about by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections that result in the inflammation of the air sacs in one or both lungs– causes over 57,000 deaths among Filipinos annually. Adults over age 60, and those with weakened immune systems, a history of heart failure, and chronic lung problems are most susceptible to the disease.