Let us acknowledge the month of April as one of the months for Garantisadong Pambata (Preschoolers Health Week), a popular mass campaign for the nationwide vitamin A distribution. This is in accordance to the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) policy as mandated in A.O. No. 36 s.2010 – Aquino Health Agenda: Universal Health Care for All Filipinos, towards the attainment of the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDG) 1 and 4. In this program, vitamin A supplementation is focused on children who are prone to vitamin A deficiency. No wonder vitamin A is also mentioned in the Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000 – RA 8976:
“Section 15 of Article II of the Constitution provides that the state shall protect and promote the right of health of the people and instil health consciousness among them. State recognizes that the nutritional problems in the Philippines, based on nutritional surveys, include deficiency in energy, iron, vitamin A, iodine, thiamine and riboflavin….”
Why is it very important to have a vitamin A supplementation? –It is a known fact that vitamin A is vital to health. Yet, it is ironical that this particular vitamin is one of the highest nutritional deficiencies in the country, according to the local Nutritional Survey.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is usually found in dark or yellow vegetables, carrots, fruits, eggs, whole milk, butter, meat, and the like. It supports cellular and bone growth and helps boost immunity and vision. It reduces complications from malaria, measles, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections. It is used for treating and for preventing vitamin A deficiency evident in underweight children, ages 5 and below
In the Philippines community setting, vitamin A distribution is done every 6 months specifically on the second week of April and October. Venue for the activity is either at the barangay health station or at the rural health unit. Distribution styles may also vary at the discretion of the community health team. Some may do a house-to-house approach or may simply gather the children in one place. The style and venue do not matter that much, as long as the goal of giving the vitamins to the designated number of target groups is met.
The target groups for the supplementation are children ages 6-59 months old. Six to eleven months old children get (1) 100,000 IU cap, the blue-colored capsule. Meanwhile, 12 -59 months old children get (1) 200,000 IU cap, the red-colored capsule. Other guidelines as written on the DOH website include:
- 1 capsule upon diagnosis regardless of when the last dose of Vitamin A capsule for preschoolers with measles
- 1 capsule upon diagnosis except when child was given Vitamin A was given less than 4 weeks for preschoolers with severe pneumonia, persistent diarrhea, severely underweight
- 1 capsule immediately upon diagnosis, 1 capsule the next day and another capsule after 2 weeks after for preschoolers with xerophthalmia
This program, which includes vitamin A supplementation, was created after several years of extensive research, comparison of surveys, and studies. Hopefully, its objectives will be carried out in order to achieve reduced number of infant and child morbidity and mortality in the country.