The Official Publication of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines

Youth Leaders Campaign for Newborn Screening

Written by Ryan John Pascual*
Originally published as the VYLH-Philippines 2010 NBS Month Newspaper Feature 
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 17, 2010)

In line with the intensive advocacy of Newborn Screening, Folic Acid Supplementation and Rare Disease among the general public, the Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health (VYLH) was organized with the aim of mobilizing the youth towards health work. VYLH is a network of different organizations based in universities and communities in the Philippines. This novel undertaking is part of an international effort to establish the Global Network for Maternal and Infant Health (GNMIH) participated by youth counterparts in China and Lebanon linked by the common interest of volunteerism and public service to improve birth outcomes worldwide through advocacy.

Since its inception in July 2009, the network has been conducting school- and community-based activities geared towards increasing public awareness in saving babies from death and mental retardation through newborn screening promotion. VYLH members also campaign the importance of folic acid supplementation in the prevention of birth defects and preterm births. VYLH community leaders had been partners with their Rural Health Units in conducting promotional and educational activities in the communities.

Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines Mindanao Island-wide Camp
Brokenshire Resort and Convention Center, Madapo, Davao City
July 30 - August 1, 2010

This year 2010, with an enduring desire for the extension of public awareness about various health issues, the pioneer volunteers decided to expand the network through island-wide camps. The said camps were held under the theme, “K4: Kabataan Kabalikat ng Kalusugan para sa Kinabukasan” which is a call for the plausible and efforts of organizations in the universities and in the communities that will strengthen the yearning for broadening health promotion. With the help of technical partners from the Department of Health, Institute of Human Genetics-NIH, U.P. Manila, Center for Health Development Region 7 and 11, NSC (Newborn Screening Center) Visayas and NSC Mindanao, the island-wide youth camps specifically aimed to expand the youth network, to orient new members regarding health issues and advocacies of the VYLH, and to create action-plans as a group.

The pioneer volunteers designed a three-day and two-night program which included lectures regarding the current health situation in the country and the role of the youth on health. In all of the camps, the former director of the Institute of Human Genetics-NIH and current chair of the Department of Pediatrics of the Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Carmencita Padilla shared an inspirational talk on volunteerism. This was followed by her talk on the national comprehensive newborn screening program in the country which she pioneered. Dr. Carmencita Padilla is also the National Program Coordinator of VYLH-Philippines. In each camp, the cluster advisers namely Dr. Eva Cutiongco-De la Paz of Luzon, Dr. Barbra Charina Cavan of Visayas and Dr. Conchita Abarquez of Mindanao, presented the lectures on folic acid supplementation, and the birth defects surveillance project. The camp program also included an audio-visual presentation on the plight and treatment of rare diseases and a workshop on action-plan construction. Results of this workshop were presented and reviewed by a special panel which included a National Youth Commission (NYC) representative. The camp also featured games and socialization activities, team building activities and the commitment ritual in which the camp participants were formally inducted as a member of the network. The program culminated with the election of regional and cluster representatives followed by a regional presentation showdown.

The series of island-wide camps was launched during the Luzon Camp last July 2 to 4, 2010 at Hotel Kimberly, Tagaytay City, followed by the Visayas Camp last July 16 to 18 at Elsalvador Beach Resort, Danao City and concluded by the Mindanao Camp last July 30 to August 1 at Brokenshire Resort and Convention Center, Madapo, Davao City. The camps were participated by a total of 116 youth leaders throughout the country with 43 coming from Luzon, 34 from Visayas and 39 from Mindanao. After these camps, the membership of VYLH-Philippines has increased from 73 volunteer youth leaders (VYLs), 30 university-based organizations and 13 community-based organizations, to 189 VYLs, 73 university-based organizations and 29 community-based organizations.

Nevertheless, that through this chaining endeavor, members of the organization and beneficiaries of the awareness campaign will succeed towards a more active role in upholding awareness on the prevention of birth defects through folic acid supplementation; in escalating public responsiveness and understanding on newborn screening; and in gathering support for orphan disorders among the general public. Indeed, this year’s VYLH K4 batch was a great leap towards continuing health advocacy and volunteerism. As it moves to its second year, VYLH-Philippines will continue to live to its dream of promoting noble health programs; molding pro-active, visionary and equipped leaders; and advancing the culture of volunteerism and advocacy to the Filipino youth.

*Ryan John Pascual is an alumnus and the former Folic Acid Campaign Committee Head (VYLH-Philippines Committee) and Education Committee Head of The UPLB Genetics Society. He graduated with a BS Biology (Major in Plant Biology) degree in UP Los Baños. Ryan is currently a non-degree graduate student at the College of Public Health, UP Manila and the incumbent National President of VYLH-Philippines.

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