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november 28, 2016

UNICEF Teams Up With AIHO For PhilHealth Z Benefits Package

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) launched a new benefit package for premature and small newborns last November 25, during the National Summit on Prematurity and Low Birth Weight held at the Peninsula Manila. The benefit package, called the Z Benefits for Premature and Small Newborns, was designed with the support of UNICEF who tapped the Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes (AIHO), Inc. for technical assistance and research expertise. The package is expected to positively impact 300,000 premature newborns each year.

The summit delved into the issues and complications of preterm birth and low birth weight, which are the leading causes of death among newborn babies globally.  Preterm birth and low birth weight often cause lifelong physical or neurological disabilities among individuals, because they left the womb not yet fully developed and susceptible to infections.

In the Philippines, UNICEF approximates that 60 percent of babies who die succumb to the complications caused by prematurity and low birth weight. It is estimated that 75 percent of these babies could survive if they are provided cost-effective interventions. Unfortunately, because of social and economic factors, interventions are not accessible to many.

DOH and PhilHealth, with the support of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), now aim to make these interventions accessible through the provisions of the Z Benefits for Premature and Small Newborns package. The package will provide the necessary care to mothers who are at risk of premature delivery and low birth weight complications.

At present, the package offers the following:

  • Medical coverage that ranges from 600php to 3,000php. This can include medication to treat preeclampsia and eclampsia, as well as antenatal corticosteroids for pregnant women.
  • Hospital transfer coverage of 4,000php. This includes a pregnant woman’s transfer to a health facility that provides specialized care needed by mother and child.
  • Baby’s benefits that range from 24,000php to 135,000php. This can include specialized care, such as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMG) and Unang Yakap, for premature babies and babies born with low birth weight.

The summit included three panel discussions and parallel sessions. The panel discussions shed a light on the landscape of preterm births in the Philippines, and featured experts such as WHO Country representative Dr. Gundo Weiler, UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Lotta Sylwander, PhilHealth President Ramon Aristoza, Dr. Soccoro De Leon-Mendoza of Kangaroo Mother Care, and Dr. Maria Asuncion Silvestre of Kalusugan ng Mag-ina. A keynote message was also delivered by DOH Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial.

The first parallel session in the afternoon was entitled A Forum on Understanding Care for the Premature and Small Baby, and the second was called A Forum on Improving Service, Governance and Health Systems on Caring for Premature Babies and Small Newborns. The latter featured AIHO partner Dr. Maria Ellen Licup-Medina of Zuellig Family Foundation.

The launch of the Z Benefits Package echoes the summit’s message “Give them Tomorrow”, strengthening the belief that newborn deaths caused by complications of prematurity and low birth weight can be prevented.

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