The Official Publication of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines

Giving students an iron and folic acid boost: DOH, DepEd launch WIFA Program

According to the 2013 National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), one out of 10 females aged 13 to 19 years old suffer from anemia or the deficiency of healthy red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood. Female adolescents are vulnerable to anemia due to the increase in iron demand of their bodies following menstruation, rapid growth and some parasitic infections.

Considering that most adolescents are in school and do not access health services in the health center, the Department of Health (DOH) partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) in implementing a school-based Weekly Iron-Folic acid (WIFA) Supplementation Program among female Grade 7 to 10 students throughout the country. WIFA supplementation is expected to contribute to the reduction of the participants’ absenteeism due to ill health and the eventual improvement of their school performance. It has been known that 200-500 million school days are lost due to absenteeism.

Launch of the WIFA Program in Iloilo National High School, Iloilo City (Iloilo Today)
About the WIFA Program

The WIFA program is a component of the Menstrual Health Management Project of DepED which aims to address knowledge gaps and support learners on self-care and other menstruation-related problems, including anemia.

It is also included in the DOH Micronutrient Support, and Adolescent Health Development Programs. In 2010, the DOH released a revision of the policy on micronutrient supplementation to support the achievement of the MDGs and address the micronutrient needs of other population groups. From this, iron and folic acid supplementation was identified as one of the interventions to address iron deficiency anemia and folate deficiency among women of the reproductive age, including adolescents.

During its implementation, Iron-Folic acid supplements containing 60 milligrams of iron and 400 micrograms of folic acid will be administered for 12 weeks from July to September 2017, and from January to March 2018. Intermittent supplementation, which is giving the supplements weekly and in two rounds, is based on the recommendation of the World Health Organization.

Furthermore, WIFA supplements will not be given to students who were not dewormed in the past six months. Intake of the supplement has also no known adverse side effects except for some gastric discomfort, constipation, and blackening of stool. Any side effects experienced by the participants should be reported to the classroom teacher or school nurse for proper management. According to a UNICEF India post, the iron folic acid tablets should be taken with a full stomach in order to reduce potential side effects. Side effects may also occur initially as the body adjusts to the supplement. These will eventually disappear after taking the supplements regularly for a few weeks.

Although WIFA will be held in public schools, it is hoped that students in private schools and out of school youth will also be encouraged to access the supplement in their community health centers.

An Opportunity for Volunteer Youth Leaders

The Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health (VYLH)-Philippines as one of the prime movers for the promotion of folic acid awareness in the country since its formation in 2009 considers the WIFA program as a relevant national program to the advocacy of the network. The program also contributes to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal target of addressing the nutritional needs of adolescent girls and other priority groups (SDG 2.2). 

The network hopes that as more youth are informed about the benefits of folic acid, and experience taking the supplement through the school-based program, there will be more youth leaders who will be knowledgeable and supportive of the advocacy. Likewise, the students will also be prepared in the future as supplementation is suggested prior to pregnancy. This is important since folate deficiency is prevalent during pregnancy.

It is also hoped that local governments and schools will also be more receptive to the advocacy following the launch of the DepED-DOH national program. In Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, a local health worker have asked the help of Volunteer Youth Leaders in supporting the WIFA particularly in promoting awareness about folic acid supplementation in order to reduce the number of potential program deferrals by influencing the public and disseminating the importance of folic acid. #

DOH launches Weekly Iron Folic Acid Program in Central Luzon. Philippine Information Agency.

Female students to get weekly iron, folic acid boost. Iloilo Today.

Nation-wide Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme to combat Anemia among Adolescent girls and boys. UNICEF India.

Ryan Pascual (@rypascual) is a BS Biology major in Plant Biology graduate from the University of the Philippines Los BaƱos (2010) and an MS student at UP Diliman. He is a proud member of The UPLB Genetics Society where he served as Education Committee Head (2008-09) and Folic Acid Campaign Committee Head (2009-10). He is also the first National President of VYLH-Philippines (2011-12). 


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