Legarda Keynotes 10th Annual Newborn Screening Convention

Hon.Loren B. LegardaLegarda, who co-authored Republic Act 9288, or the Newborn Screening Act of 2004, with former Vice President and Senator Noli De Castro and former Senator Juan Flavier, explained that she supported the passage of RA 9288 because she believed that it is the government's mandate to protect and promote the rights of children to survival and to provide them an opportunity to live a full and healthy development as individuals. She also filed Senate Bill 4, a proposed legislation aimed at institutionalizing mandatory universal healthcare coverage for poor families.

Legarda added that legislative initiatives require effective implementation. “With your knowledge and expertise, I trust that you will be my staunch partners in promoting a sustainable and effective solution to the problems hounding our children’s health,” the senator said.

The Newborn Screening Society of the Philippines Inc (NSSPI), in partnership with the Philippine Pediatric Society – Southern Tagalog Chapter, hosted the annual convention attended by some 1,700 health professionals from all over the country. The two-day gathering was themed “Moving On: Expanded Newborn Screening for Filipino Newborns.”

Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, through a message delivered by Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag, expressed DOH’s commitment to look for better ways to screen all Filipino newborns. Tayag shared the newborn screening expansion plans, including the opening of long-term follow-up clinics in different parts of the country.

The planned expansion, Tayag said, forms part of the “Kalusugan Pangkalahatan,” or Universal Health Care, which is the department’s strategy aiming to improve every Filipino’s health.

 
Dr. Vicente Belizario, Executive Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of the Philippines Manila, reaffirmed NIH's commitment to the program and the newborn screening implementers and partners with the involvement of its two institutes–-the Newborn Screening Reference Center that serves as the technical partner of the Department of Health, and the Institute of Human Genetics that houses the Newborn Screening Center.

The convention began Monday, October 1, with lectures on the essentials of the newborn screening program, including newborn screening basics, pitfalls in implementation, setting up a newborn screening facility, and endocrine disorders. The lectures were delivered by the heads and endocrinologists of the different Newborn Screening Centers – Dr. April Berboso, Dr. Conchita Abarquez, Dr. Florencio Dizon, Dr. J Edgar Winston Posecion, Dr. Caridad Santos and Dr. Eleanor Du.

Day two, on the other hand, saw the attendees receive program updates and expansion plans. Dr. Carmencita Padilla, Director of the Newborn Screening Reference Center-NIH, discussed the milestones of the newborn screening program as well as the master plan for the expanded newborn screening program. She presented data of Filipino newborns from the California Newborn Screening Program, further underscoring the importance of expanded newborn screening in saving more lives.

Dr. Honorata Catibog, Director III of the Department of Health, presented the proposed DOH Network of Regional Follow up Centers. Dr. Kwang-Jen Hsiao of Taiwan presented G6PD deficiency in Asia, while Dr. Beatriz Gepte discussed local data. Dr Anna Victora Sombong talked about the G6PD QA Program in the Philippines. Dr. Leona Ellen Bayta of PhilHealth explained the inclusion of newborn screening in the newborn care package. A panel discussion on “what newborn screening will not screen” reiterated that Down syndrome, Pompe, ADHD and Autism are NOT included in the screening panel.

Other speakers included Dr. Mary Anne Chiong, Dr. Sylvia Estrada, Dr. April Berboso, Dr Catherine Lynn Silao, Dr. Liza Naranjo, Dr. Barbra Cavan and Dr Jocelyn Eusebio.

This year’s convention was co-chaired by Dr. Rizalina Gonzales and Dr. Cristina Magno, under the leadership of NSSPI President Dr. Rowena Pua.