Project Philippines 2009

Issue: Gastrointestinal Parasites

Dates: August 23, 2009 – September 6, 2009

Local Partners:

  1. University of Philippines
  2. National Institute of Health
  3. Share-a-Child

Project Co-Leaders:

  1. Noelle Pineda, Stanford ’10
  2. Janet Rojina, Santa Clara ’11

Location: Cebu, Philippines

Summary

Project Philippines 2009 (PP09) worked with the Philippines National Institutes of Health, University of Philippines Cebu High School and Share-a-Child to develop a gastrointestinal worm prevention campaign focused on the education of school-aged children, development of community health leaders, and advocacy with the government.

In addition to serving the community of Alaska in Cebu City, Philippines, the team also empowered local youth with the skills and information necessary to be leaders devoted to service.

Challenge

Soil-transmitted helminthes and schistosomes (collectively referred to as “worms” in the rest of the description) constitute one of the world’s most neglected health crises today. Parasitic worms affect approximately 2 billion people worldwide, with 300 million suffering from severe illnesses and at least 200,000 dying annually.

In the Philippines, 7 out of 10 children are infected with parasitic worms. The Alaska community in Cebu City, Philippines has one of the highest rates of prevalence with 88% of children infected with parasitic worms. Children in low and middle-income countries represent a particularly vulnerable population, as infection with parasitic worms stunts growth and physical fitness and impairs intellectual and cognitive development. Two studies found that chronic hookworm infection in childhood reduced future earnings by 40 percent and that deworming campaigns reduced school absenteeism by twenty-five percent.

The tragic irony of the situation is that there are readily available and cheap resources for treatment. Treatment consists of two single-dose pills which together cost less than $0.22. While the government in the Philippines is required by law to deworm all school-age children, the infection rate remains incredibly high, suggesting that deworming pills are not being delivered to the children. There is clearly a pressing need to address the problem of parasitic worms in the community of Alaska.

Response

In order for a prevention campaign to be successful and sustainable, it must consist of numerous components that create a sum larger than its parts. Therefore, Project Philippines 2009 focused mainly on advocacy and education, two components that a team of 15-20 college students can measurably affect.

During the 2 week SEALNet project, our activities on the ground included the following:

  • Education for school-aged children: development and delivery of a health curriculum about the prevention of gastrointestinal worms to students at Alaska Elementary
  • Leadership workshops for high-school students: development and delivery of a leadership workshop for the high school students at UP-Cebu High School to explore themes such as the definition of service leadership, advocacy, and action plan development and to equip the students with the skills and information necessary to be health educators and leaders in their communities
  • Adult involvement: parent and teacher volunteer education sessions to educate the adults in the community about the necessity and importance of worm prevention and to encourage them to take ownership of deworming their children
  • Advocacy: active meetings with government officials to fulfill/enforce the laws that require the distribution of deworming pills to all school-aged children in the Philippines.

What’s happening now?

The SEALNet mentees at UP-Cebu continue to be involved in addressing the worm problem in Alaska as well as working to expand the SEALNet leadership model to other schools in Cebu.  Here are a few quotes from the mentees after the project:

 “Our club is also working on the expansion program for SEALNet in Cebu”

“I’m going to be businesswoman for a day because Philip and i are in charge for the fund-raising of the club.”

“We are still planning for a deworming activity for the high school and we are working on negotiating with the city council to get free pills.”