Representatives from various health and food safety agencies discussed the assessment of food- and water-borne disease (FWBD) surveillance systems in the Philippines in an initiation meeting held last September 25, 2019 at the Acacia Hotel, Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
In her opening remarks, RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos emphasized the need to promote the surveillance of FWBD, which remains to be one of the leading causes of morbidity in the Philippines.
The 2018 Field Health Service Information Systems (FHSIS) Annual Report of the Department of Health (DOH) shows that FWBDs tallied an estimate of 40,000 cases, 51 of which led to deaths. Of these cases, only 65% underwent lab confirmation.
“My gut feel is [that] these numbers are in fact underreported because when we have […] diarrheal disease, we just let it pass and keep it to ourselves,” said Dr. Carlos, “but this should not be the case because this is a reportable event. Therefore, many incidents of [FWBD] infections are not reported and our statistics I don’t think will ever be accurate; but we should try to be.”
Dr. Carlos also stressed the problem of the lack of sufficient data, both from the human and agricultural side, to back up risk assessment efforts.
RITM-SRU Surveillance Nurse June Corpuz provided an overview of FWBD surveillance in the Philippines followed by a review of Republic Act No. 10611, also known as the Food Safety Act of 2013, led by RITM-SRU Head Dr. Annabelle Sucuano.
The meeting also served as an avenue for discussion among the agencies on their respective roles in addressing the Philippines’ FWBD problem given the pressing need to improve coordination mechanisms among all stakeholders concerned with food and water-borne diseases and food safety.
The project aims to assess the ability of the country’s existing FWBD surveillance systems to detect and respond to outbreaks, including study sites’ capacity to detect agents causing FWBD and gaps in the implementation of the FWBD surveillance system and food safety programs.
Spearheaded by the RITM-SRU, the meeting was attended by DOH agencies Metro Manila Center for Health Development (MMCHD), Disease Prevention and Control Bureau (DPCB), Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit – National Capital Region (RESU-NCR), and Regional Office IV-B (MIMAROPA); Bureau of Plant Industry – Plant Product Safety Services Division (BPI-PPSSD); Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI); Manila Health Department (MHD); National Dairy Authority (NDA); National Food Authority (NFA); National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS); and hospitals East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) and San Lazaro Hospital.
by Eunice Brito, Project Matyag, Research Assistant