Saturday, March 31, 2012

Breastfeeding Training of Community Health Workers

Per the Department of Health's Breastfeeding TSEK program, training of community health workers have been conducted since last year. My friend Velvet Roxas has been asking me to attend one to see what they have been doing, but they started in the QC and KAMANAVA area so it was only recently that I had the chance to cover one.

Last March 1 and 2, Arugaan (an NGO that conducts the training for DOH, which is then funded by the World Health Organization) held a training of community health workers/officials at the Remedios Center in San Andres, Manila. That was their second to the last training for Manila, after which, they were heading to Zamboanga for two weeks.

Suffice it to say, it was a humbling experience.

On behalf of all the people trained and helped, I would like to express gratitude to WHO for funding this and DOH for designating officers per area to find venues and gather the attendees. Most of all, I was bowled over by Arugaan's trainors (led by Nanay Ines Fernandez, founder of Arugaan and one of the pillars of breastfeeding advocacy in the Philippines).

I saw these community health workers (from volunteers to barangay councilors to nurses, doctors, dentists as well as Manila City Hall's health officials) arrive the first day, happy to be out of their regular work area and just there to comply... and leave excited about breastfeeding. So excited that some of them even exposed their own breasts to demonstrate what they have learned. So excited that some of them even tasted breast milk... some for the very first time.

It was also particularly nice that the flow of activities ensured that no one is sitting still for long. There were activities/contests, debates, even a dance/mime number. Nanay Ines and crew also made sure to shake things up with rhymes and silly dances, ones she uses at her Creche.

not in this slide is the fact that milk companies only spend some P2-3 billion a year for its employees, ads and giveaways in this country... such a paltry exchange considering the cost to our health care system alone for all the babies getting sick due to wrong formula feeding

busy health workers on a task

I chose this collage because I liked the idea that they put all the benefits in the shape of a breast, and all the undisclosed risks in the shape of a feeding bottle

male nurse talking about helping someone deal with mastitis

another activity that tested participants on their perceived baby-mommy schedule

some of the babies by mixed-feeding moms who were brought in by health workers so Arugaan can demonstrate how health workers can help such moms

the mixed feeding moms became accidental models for lactation massage (who best to show that they have milk, if only they can relax, right?)

barangay councilor holding a newborn while Mom has her lactation massage

as appreciation for their efforts, the mothers go home with some baby clothes, towels, a tub and a sling (slings were manufactured by next9, paid for by UNICEF)

had the shirts been bigger, i'd have stolen one for Yamee... haha

God blessed us by a mother who came with a baby with cleft palate... so Arugaan was able to show the health workers how to breastfeed such a baby (note that the baby is positioned a little more vertically than usual so that part of the mother's breast can cover the cleft in the child's lip and make suckling easier for him)

health workers showing what they learned...

... like lactation massage

the mime show as a last reminder of the risks of formula feeding

photo opp with Nanay Innes, DOH and Manila Health Office officials

Arugaan helps its community of mothers by employing some of the mothers as trainors, and some to do the catering for the trainings. This, aside from their counseling work, lactation massage, wet nursing services and teaching at the creche makes Arugaan as the only entity that employs women for their breastfeeding capacity. Isn't that wonderful? More to the point, isn't that empowering?

It is the DOH that deals with the LGUs to organize these trainings, however, so you might want to ask your LGU to start collaborating with DOH so they can assign an officer for your area who will then coordinate with Arugaan. The sooner the trainings are done, the sooner the health workers can help pregnant mothers/mothers with newborns in your area.

Another wonderful thing is that because it is funded, it is reaching more sectors. The TSEK campaign does not stop with the conduct of this training. Arugaan people will also shadow those who have been trained to see if they have really retained what have been taught and guide the trainees to really help their constituents/patients. Health workers will also need to fill up forms (much to their dismay) to monitor breastfeeding cases at the barangay level and provide the DOH with better statistics.

Even the official photographer, multi-awarded Sir Lito Ocampo, committed to the project despite the lack of prestige and perks (the trainors and photographer get paid, but not THAT much) because he belies it the right thing to do.

I really felt more hopeful about breastfeeding advocacy because I attended this training. Hopefully, I can attend more to further imbibe my breastfeeding commitments.

And hello... if my Mom network considers me as a breastfeeding advocate, they should meet Arugaan moms! Again, I am humbled and very privileged to have met them and assisted them.


Just in case anyone passes by here and feels the need to defend formula-feeding... please know that the TSEK campaign, though it hopes to benefit all mothers and babies, targets mothers who go to barangay/government clinics (read: the poor). Formula-use among the poor not only endangers the baby (due to wrong or rationed formulation, sterility issues, etc), the mother (since the mother does not get protected by lactation amenorrhea, she is more likely to conceive again so soon) but also compromises the health of older children (as parents will tend to channel all resources to purchase formula instead of investing in good food for the entire family).

Remember, breastfeeding saves lives.


Ethel Bernales said...

Mec! I'd love to join Arugaan in one of these trainings! So inspiring. I've always loved Nanay Ines style of integrating fun activities into learning. Galing!

ambquezada said...

I have personally seen a lot of young children being fed formula milk for older kids and I have seen how small and fragile these kids are. I have been telling these mothers to breastfeed them and have explained the benefits for children and mothers.

Our DOH rep for Davao del Sur have been constantly visiting the health center and we have been doing a lot of projects though I have not yet attended the breastfeeding training. I might want to open this up to her.

Alex said...

Thank you very much. I enjoyed reading this. They are going to Zamboanga? Will they come to Davao?

Maria said...

I remember watching a feature in NewsTV about this poor family who have no access to fresh water. So what they get from the "well" they directly put in the baby's bottle. I was like "what the F" they didn't even boil it. And also, the mother was a housewife, why didn't she just breasfeed? No more problems about bottles, water and formula- that money could have gone to their daily food allowance.

Then there was another feature about a poor family who couldn't afford formula so they feed their baby coffee. COFFEE! OMG. Didn't they know that breastmilk is free? Haay. I do wish that this project will reach various sectors of the Philippines.