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Breathing Hope in the Fight against Prematurity

The death of a newborn is a heartbreaking ordeal, especially for a woman who painstakingly held a life in her womb, a woman expecting to cradle a healthy infant in the arms of safety. 

Twenty six -year-old Mira of Bulacan gave birth to twins who never got to see the light of day. Mira’s twins MJ and JM were lost to the world’s largest killer of babies: preterm birth complications. The thing with Mira and with most grieving mothers who had lost their children to prematurity is that they think medication is expensive and inaccessible to the poor—this is not entirely true. 

Possible interventions are within reach; just like the case of Sara Padilla, the 19-year old mom who also gave birth to a preemie, King Phillip. Sara’s baby survived and passed the critical stage due to medical interventions.

Going back to Mira, her twins are, sadly, now part of the infant mortality cases in the Philippines—cases that are badly in need of a dramatic reduction.  Albeit locally, the number of under-5 deaths declined significantly in the past twenty years2, this is an achievement bound to be short-lived. The slow decline in newborn survival has had us missing out on our millennium development goal in reducing child mortality by two-thirds this 20152.

Time to ensure we meet the goal
In the year 2000, the United Nations, through the Millennium Summit, launched a new standard in the form of The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are eight international development goals established following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration—with reducing child mortality as the fourth goal.
With that said, the statistics alone don’t leave us with much hope. Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born 1. Our country ranks 2nd in the number of premature births in Southeast Asia, 8th worldwide, and 17th in deaths arising from preterm birth complications2. 

Furthermore, complications plague preterm babies on an equally alarming scale. It is the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, and is responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 20132. To be more specific, it is neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) which is the second leading cause of death among premature infants in the Philippines, and the leading verifiable one3.

Juxtaposing death with life, problem with the solution
With this at hand, The Philippine Society of Newborn Medicine (PSNbM), together with the Department of Health, Philhealth, and the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital joined forces in championing a campaign set on averting more needless deaths in children, and ensuring that the millennium development goal in child mortality is met. By juxtaposing a newborn’s breath of life and the struggle to escape death, HINGA|HINGALO ni Baby was formed. HINGA|HINGALO ni Baby communicates the gamble in childbirth; that despite the joy in the miracle of giving birth, premature birth complications reduce a baby’s survival into a coin flip triggered by nothing but chance alone. 

PSNbM notes that in the current landscape, there is a lack of a sense of urgency and insufficient action towards addressing the world’s largest cause of death in newborn children. “While initiatives by the government, the health sector, and international organizations helped the country achieve a huge drop in child mortality, there is still a need for a more centralized and more concentrated effort in ending this grave national health issue,” shares PSNbM President Dr. Carina C. Quimbo.

The HINGA|HINGALO ni Baby movement will inform the public about the gravitas of preterm morbidities and mortalities and its implications on an individual and national level starting with a documentary video that offers a behind-the-scenes look at local cases of child mortality, specifically those from Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, the institution with the most number of premature births in Manila. 

Moreover, the campaign aims to disclose top preterm birth complications and existing interventions, and drive audiences to the right channels where they can avail of said interventions. “With #hingahingalo, we are doing our part in averting more needless deaths in infants, and plotting the course towards finally meeting our millennium development goal of reducing child mortality,” Dr. Quimbo shares. “Together we can win this battle against prematurity and stop losing lives of the innocent.”

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HINGA | HINGALO ni Baby; Choose Life | Reduce Newborn Deaths is a campaign championed by The Philippine Society of Newborn Medicine (PSNbM) to lead the discourse on prematurity as a prevalent national health issue. To know more about HINGA | HINGALO ni Baby, contact us via www.psnbm.org.ph or like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Philippine-Society-of-Newborn-Medicine-Inc

[1] Preterm birth, Fact sheet N°363,  Who.int, Updated November 2014
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs363/en/
[2] Time to focus on more than 350,000 preterm births in the Philippines every year, 2012
http://www.unicef.org/philippines/media_19960.html#.VFwxUfSUeXo
[3] Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, World Health Organization, 2012
http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/201204_borntoosoon-report.pdf


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