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Quezon Gov. Suarez pushes Q1K to be a ‘national policy’ in Bangkok symposium

Gov. David ‘Jayjay’ Suarez (3rd from left), his wife, ALONA Partylist Rep. Anna Villaraza Suarez (2nd from left), provincial government chief of staff Webster Letargo (2nd from right), provincial agriculturist Roberto Gajo (left) and Joeann Reyes (right) of the technical working group of Q1K program pose for a souvenir photo after the symposium in Bangkok, Thailand. (PIO photo)


By John A. Bello

LUCENA CITY – Quezon Gov. David ‘Jayjay’ Suarez pushed for the adoption of the first 1,000 days of life maternal and child health care program as a national policy for government leaders and policy makers to resolve the national problem of malnutrition during the 2-day regional symposium on ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition’ held in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday and Saturday.

“It has to be a national policy. If policy makers, prime ministers and presidents don’t make it a national policy how can we be assured that the next generation of our county is gonna be smart, more competitive and healthy in a globalized world with stiff competition? We cannot simply afford to have our children disadvantaged in their future,” Suarez said referring to the program pioneered by the provincial government of Quezon which advocates for a package of health care and nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life of the child and its pregnant mother as contained in Quezon One Thousand Days of Life (Q1K) program.

Suarez spoke before the participants of the event organized by the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (UN-FAO), World Health Organization, World Food Programme and UNICEF under the auspices of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2015 and held at Bangkok Convention Centre.

Suarez highlighted the Q1K program and pointed out that the problem of malnutrition happens foremost in the first 1,000 days of the child’s life where its mental, emotional and physical skills are first developed.

“If the mother who is child-bearing is malnourished, the water she is drinking is not clean and she is experiencing domestic violence in her family it has absolutely a great impact on the first one thousand days of life of her child and this is the reality everywhere. We all fight for equal society but how can we fight effectively when we don’t address it where it happens?” Suarez asked the participants adding that such is the main reason why Quezon came up with the Q1K program to make a dent in the long term for the maternal health care of women in the province.

The Quezon governor along with Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo who spoke during the inaugural session, were invited to the event which bears the theme “Investing in Food Systems for Better Nutrition’.

“The UN-FAO has requested the Quezon governor to share the Q1K program in the very first Asia and the Pacific symposium on nutrition, Quezon being the first local government unit in the country to implement a comprehensive program in addressing malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life,” Roberto Gajo, provincial agriculturist, said in his Facebook account of the event.

Gajo, along with the governor’s wife, ALONA Partylist Rep. Anna Villaraza Suarez; the governor’s chief of staff Webster Letargo; and Joeanne Manalo Reyes, technical nurse of the provincial health office, accompanied Suarez to the event.

The Quezon governor, after citing briefly the physical and natural resources of his province in his speech, said that the priority given by the national government to nutrition is not enough and that it “should be tackled and discussed in the same context as peace and order, as the economy, as education, and as social welfare because it plays a vital role in all these fields” adding that “the government policies (on nutrition) are outdated and that they must go in line with globalization and the internet and how the modern world is working and thinking.”

The keynote address in the event was delivered by Dr. Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg distinguished associate professor of global food and agriculture policy and ethics at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, who discussed about changing food environments, systems and diets in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of the Kingdom of Thailand, who is also the UN-FAO special ambassador for Zero Hunger in Asia and the Pacific graced the inaugural session of the symposium.

Suarez spoke on Saturday about moving forward ‘the first 1,000 days of life’ agenda and the role of the Quezon provincial government in promoting the mother and child health and nutrition program which is now being implemented in the whole province.

Suarez told the participants - composed mostly of doctors, professors and specialists in food and nutrition in the Asia-Pacific region - about how during his first year in his administration as provincial governor the malnutrition level in Quezon is over 17 % and there were no provincial and barangay nutrition action plans and by using political will he went about adopting such plan, instituting the provincial nutrition action office and barangay nutrition scholars which paved the way for reducing the malnutrition level to 9.32% at present.

He disclosed that at the outset he noted with dismay that there is no universal measuring scale for malnourished babies in the province and that the measuring scales used in livestock are the ones being used for malnourished babies.

Suarez discussed about the Q1K program which was conceptualized in 2014 and launched on July 8, 2015, with identified 12 pilot municipalities which pledged commitment to the program. They are Mauban, San Antonio, Tiaong, Buenavista, Catanauan, Gen. Nakar, Jomalig, Lopez, San Francisco, San Andres, Unisan and Tagkawayan.

The program, the governor said, is focused on the health, nutrition and sanitation and social care of some 1,000 poor and pregnant women who were enlisted in the program.

Now the program is being implemented in the whole province, with municipal and barangay Q1K coordinators and social welfare staff going about their tasks of monitoring the target beneficiaries who undergo free regular check-ups and together with the implementation of the provincial nutrition action plan supplemental and complementary feeding, livelihood projects to malnourished families, home gardening system and other social services are being rendered down to the barangays in the whole province.

Suarez said that Quezon province is producing about 30,000 babies a year and that with Q1K in place in the whole province, pregnant women undergo 100% complete immunization compared to 55% before Q1K; and breastfeeding is being done by 95% of the women compared to 40% before the program.

In the Q1K program, all the child-bearing women are provided with Mama’s Book and Baby’s Book, considered ‘the bible’ in basic health care and sanitation for the guidance of both mother and child, he said.

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