Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Consumers’ Action for Empowerment Launched

February 20 marked the successful launching of Consumers’ Action for Empowerment at Sulo Hotel with thirty-four organizations, five community health associations, and at least four groups from media as attendees.

Shortened for Consumers’ Action, this group stresses the need to unite and assert for the people’s right on access to safe, affordable, quality, and effective medicines. The group believes that it is high time for the creation of a consumers’ group to be participated by community leaders, people’s organizations, hospital workers, advocates, religious institutions, teachers, women’s groups, and consumers in light of the passage of Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 (RA 9502).

Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, member of Consumer’s Action Secretariat and Executive Director of CHD, remains “not very optimistic” and reckons in a statement the inherent flaws of RA 9502:

The law failed to dismantle foreign control over the drug industry which is one of the reasons why millions are unable to buy life-saving essential meds because of exorbitant prices. Multinational companies dictate high prices through the World Trade Organization – Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (WTO-TRIPS).

There is no true local drug industry in the Philippines. Local manufacturers can only produce 200 kinds of essential medicines despite the fact that 80 % of the more than 17,000 registered drugs are already off-patent. Instead of developing the local drug industry, the government encourages parallel importation which promotes the policy of dependence and which can eventually kill the local drug manufacturers.

Despite the clamour and strong recommendation of the health sector representatives and people’s organizations, the law omitted the creation of a Drug Price Regulatory Board which could have been ensured the democratic representation of consumers and other stakeholders.

‘Strengthening’ BFAD by leaving it to generate its own income with the goal of cutting it off from the national budget is tantamount to government reneging on its obligation and makes BFAD more vulnerable to private interests and influences.

The said group, which is spearheaded by Council for Health and Development (CHD), Health Action Information Network (HAIN), Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Health Students’ Action (HSA), Community Medicine Foundation (COMMEDF), Kilos Bayan Para sa Kalusugan, and MEDHERBAL PHARMACY, shall act as a watchdog of consumers on accessibility of safe and essential medicines including drug price monitoring on a nationwide scale and networking with other concerned groups and individuals.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Minding Mental Health

On the positive side, the global community’s understanding of different mental illnesses have grown by leaps and bounds. Unlike in the early centuries where mentally-impaired patients were either tortured, imprisoned, or killed on the wrong belief that the person was possessed by evil spirits, there is now a growing awareness that people suffering from mental disability needs treatment and care.

And now, for the not-so good news. Despite the advancements in the fi eld of mental health, a large percentage of the global population still has no access to treatment and care. In addition, the number of people suffering from certain mental illnesses is expected to sharply rise in the years to come. These issues are discussed in the editorial, “Untangling the mental haywire,” which also looks into the relatively new phenomenon of Internet addiction.

Suicide is a pressing mental health concern and this is discussed in the article “Intended death: a look at suicidal behavior.” The sidebar shows how health workers and advocates can tap the media in preventing suicides, not just in providing the public with information but also through the responsible coverages of suicide cases.

In conflict-ridden areas, much of the intervention focuses on the physical health of the civilians, but the article “The hidden battlefi eld” shows a neglected area of concern - mental health. The article details how the stressors generated by wars affect the mental health of both the civilians and combatants.

“Community-based mental health programs: back to basics” shows how the implementation of community-based programs can help bridge the treatment gap in developing countries.

It provides tips on how to implement a community-based program, as well as examples from three countries which have tapped the involvement of the community and the family in caring for a patient.

The last article, “Crash and burn” looks into the mental health of NGO staff and humanitarian aid workers, whose needs have been largely overlooked as they go about the business of helping other people.

Source: Issue No. 14, Health Alert Asia Pacific
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