The Social Sciences Division (SSD) of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) conducted a Round Table Discussion (RTD) on Mortality Data: Gaps and Inadequacies last November 21, 2013 at the Hyatt Hotel Manila. The RTD was organized in consideration of the challenges posted in the generation and consolidation of data on mortality. Reliable data sets are important in the conduct of scientific research needed to benchmark public policies for the improvement of the provision and delivery of health and social services.
In the welcome remarks given by National Scientist Mercedes B. Concepcion, she stressed that the ability to have a complete civil registrationsystem and survey data sets will allow the monitoring of indicators of success in achieving the various Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This RTD also parallels other efforts being conducted by the SSD of NAST PHL to capacitate primary and secondary stakeholders to improve maternal health and to combat HIV-AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, which are goals of MDGs 4 and 6, respectively.
The first presentation entitled “The Dynamics of the Mortality, Population Growth and Economic Development in the Philippines” was given by Dr. Dennis S. Mapa, Associate Professor and Director for Research of the UP Diliman School of Statistics and Affiliate Associate Professor of the School of Economics. In his presentation, Dr. Mapa stressed that the relation and implication, not only of mortality data sets but, of mortalityper se to socioeconomic facets of society such as population and economic development were reiterated.Demographic Transition, which is characterized by a significant change from high fertility and mortality rates to low fertility and mortality rates, can be facilitated by progressive public policies through government interventions in health services, family planning and education. A stable population will allow room for a more competitive and productive working class yielding higher economic production, thus reducing poverty.An econometric model using regional and provincial data sets was also presented. The model showed causality effects between public efforts and investments on health, education and labor force participation and fertility and mortality rates. Using the model, it can be said that increasing public efforts and investment decreases both fertility and mortality rates and hence, achieving a stable population.
Academician Carmencita D. Padilla, member of the NASTPHL Health Sciences Division, presented her paper entitled, “Will the Philippines Achieve Its MDG 4 Goal? A Look at Neonatal, Infant and Child Mortality Data”. The presentation highlighted thecurrent status of neonatal, infant and child mortality and current efforts of addressing MGD 4.As pointed out, MDG 4’s indicators include under-five mortality, infant mortality and the proportion of 1-year old children immunized against measles. Based on current reports from various primary stakeholders such as the Department of Health and the Commission on the Welfare of Children,the country can achieve MDG 4 by 2015. Meeting these indicators will be made possible by a number of strategies employed by the Department of Healthand the National Institutes of Health. These strategies include skilled birth attendance, essential newborn care, integrated management of sick children, micronutrient supplementation, immunization and breastfeeding among others. Though the statistics and country reports made by the United Nations show positive results, a question on the accuracy of datasets has also been raised. In this regard, Acd. Padilla encouraged summarizing data sources to come up with triangulated data sets for sound policies and programs. Further,she reiterated that the frequency of data generation plays an important role.
The last speaker was Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvaña, Infectious Disease Specialist, Institute of Biotechnology and Microbiology, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila. In his presentation entitled, “The Changing Molecular Epidemiology of HIV in the Philippines: Impact on Disease Progression and Mortality”, Dr. Salvaña gave an overview of HIV in the country. He reported that this year, an average of 14 new cases are being diagnosed daily.While globally, the cases of HIV infection dropped by 20 percent, in the Philippines ,an increase of 1250 percent over the decade was noted. The increase in the number of reports of infection cases in the country can be attributed to an increased awareness and better testing facilities along with the availability of effective treatment to counter HIV. However, theDOH estimates that only about 6-12 percent of the total number of people at risk of HIV are recorded; these are the ones that are reflected in the published official data. Another point to be considered is the discrepancy in the data reporting system due to social stigma. In conclusion, we are still far behind in meeting indicators for MDG 6.
During the open forum, various points were clarified and discussed. Recommendations and suggestions for research were identified. Some suggestions includedexpanding the research scope of the econometric model to cover municipalities and barangays; research on congenital anomalies; research on the effects of folic acid supplementation for all reproductive age women at the community level;the development of low-cost testing of HIV; and research on the economic impact of HIV-AIDS.
National Scientist Gelia T. Castillo in her closing remarks, stated that mortality is inevitable. On the other hand, the increase in birth rates is evitable. With studies relating the quality of women’s education to global and national issues and with a significant number of Filipino women in the work place and in academe, we can address the issues at hand. Also, NS Castillo recommended further improvement of our data sets and at the same time, that we have more faith in locally generated data .