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Flagship DepED program to improve health and hygiene in school children

Northern Samar, January 18, 2011—A highly successful flagship program by the Department of Education (DepEd) to improve health and hygiene practices of school children will be adapted in 10 provinces across the Philippines.

The Essential Health Care Program (EHCP) is a government program that promotes handwashing, toothbrushing and deworming among pre-school and elementary pupils, through the support UNICEF, Procter and Gamble (P&G) during its pilot phase. It is coordinated and implemented through the local divisions of DepEd with technical assistance from the NGO Fit for School, Inc. A study on the program’s effectiveness shows that daily handwashing and toothbrushing and bi-annual deworming through the EHCP reduces worm infestation by 47 percent, absenteeism by 27 percent and under-nutrition by 20 percent.

“We are happy at the success of this program and even more delighted that our local government partners have shown their commitment to their children. This program will not only teach children healthy habits but also make them an instrument in teaching these healthy habits when they come home after school,” Tim Grieve, UNICEF Philippines Water and Sanitation Chief says.

EHCP reaches a major milestone when 10 local governments begin adapting the program using local resources. The first Memorandum of Understanding will be signed by Northern Samar Governor Paul Daza and partners at Erenas, Victoria. Aurora, Tarlac, Camarines Norte, Guimaras, Antique, Cebu City, Davao City, Zamboanga del Sur and Sarangani will follow suit. The UNICEF-P&G-assisted EHCP covers over 3,000 schools, and hopes to improve the learning capabilities of more than a million pupils.

One factor which has a very direct bearing on children’s staying power and performance in school is their state of health and nutrition. Toothaches and diarrhea are among the common ailments that cause children to miss school. Studies show that 7 out of 10 children aged 3-12 suffer from intestinal worms due to unhygienic practices that often lead to diarrhea and under-nutrition. Research also shows that 97 percent of 6 year olds and 81 percent of 12 year olds have dental caries. 

Research has shown that school-based fluoride toothbrushing programs lead to about 40 to 50per cent reduction in new tooth decay. Good hand washing practices is the single most effective way to curb intestinal worm infestation and avoid respiratory and diarrhea-related diseases, such as coughs, colds, cholera and dysentery.

"We are extremely happy to see the EHCP institutionalized here in Northern Samar. Through this effort, P&G through Safeguard is able to fulfill our purpose of touching and improving more Filipino lives. Together with our partners, UNICEF, DepED, LGUs, our mandate is to teach all schoolchildren the life-saving habit of handwashing at critical moments not just during special occasions like Global Handwashing Day every October 15, but to make it a daily practice, "said Clint Navales, P&G External Relations Leader.

The EHCP is the DepEd’s response to advocate and mobilize resources for improving the health and well-being of pre-school and school-aged children and help improve their performance in school. Through low-cost preventive interventions, the DepEd aims to cut by half the incidence of infectious diseases among pre-school and elementary students, and reduce absenteeism.

The UNICEF-P&G-assisted EHCP seeks to contribute to attaining the goals of the Child Friendly Schools movement and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which aims to (i) achieve universal primary education, (ii) reduce childhood diseases and thereby the risks of other major diseases and (iii) develop global partnerships for education. The partnership with LGUs is most critical in sustaining the EHCP and ensuring the Philippines attains the MDGs.



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