As the country celebrates the National Women’s Month, the Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill aimed at expanding the country’s nutrition and health programs for mothers and children during the child’s first 1000 days of life.

Senate Bill No. 1537, or the “Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act,” was sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros, vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Health, and was approved with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention.

Apart from Hontiveros, the bill was co-authored by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, along with Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, as well as Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Richard Gordon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II and Leila de Lima.

Hontiveros said the bill would help address the need to scale up nutrition during the first 1,000 days in the life of a child, “and ensure that the fight against malnutrition must be a priority of both the national and the local government.”

The legislator explained that “investment in good nutrition during the critical 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is crucial to developing a child’s cognitive capacity and physical growth.”

Investment in good nutrition during the critical 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is crucial to developing a child’s cognitive capacity and physical growth.

“Ensuring that every child receives the adequate nutrition and is provided the critical health services during this window can yield dividends for a lifetime, allowing them to perform better in school, more effectively fight off diseases, earn more as an adult, and become healthy, productive citizens,” the lawmaker said.

Ejercito, co-sponsor of the bill, said the programs under the bill would help curb maternal deaths. “It is our vision to inculcate prevention through a targeted approach and interventions provided at the different life stages of a child,” he said.

“It is our vision to empower our local government units and other stakeholders to see the benefits of having a healthier society through the delivery of maternal and neonatal health services. It is our vision to dream big for our fellow Filipinos to achieve “ginhawa para sa lahat,” he said.

Under the bill, the government would be mandated to prioritize the nutrition of pre-pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, infants and young children, to be implemented in an integrated manner by all branches of government.

According to the bill’s provisions, the government would provide for a comprehensive strategy to address health and nutrition of children, institutionalize and scale up investment plans for health and nutrition in the regional and local development units.

The bill would also strengthen enforcement of Executive Order No. 51, or the “Milk Code,” and Republic Act No. 10028, or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009,” which promote optimal infant and young child feeding and maternity protection.

Hontiveros said that multiple studies show that poor nutrition is harmful to children, mothers, and the whole nation: “It can impede economic growth and it can extend the cycle of poverty.”

“The effects of undernourishment during the first 1,000 days do not stop at childhood, and unfortunately, the children suffer from this damage even when they become adults,” the lady senator said.

“Stunting or the failure to grow to proper height has been shown to be associated with greater risk for disease, poor health, poor school performance, poor productivity and lower earning capacity as adults. Malnutrition is the agent by which poverty viciously perpetuates itself,” she added.

Hontiveros further said that, similarly, undernourished mothers are more likely to suffer difficult pregnancies and give birth to undernourished children themselves, and have increased risk of death.

“Let us ensure that we have healthy nanays to give birth to healthy bulilits who, in turn, will grow up to become healthy Pinoys and Pinays,” Hontiveros concluded.


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