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Health and Nutrition Status of and Health-Seeking Behavior among Families in High Risk Urban Communities

This research is a beneficiary assessment study aimed primarily at providing benchmark information necessary for planning and mapping out strategies for the Urban Health and Nutrition Program envisioned by the Department of Health. Using family survey, direct observations, and life histories, this two-part study of 720 families from 15 depressed barangays in Taguig, Pasig and Kalookan determined a) the health and nutritional status of the urban poor; and b) their health-seeking and health service utilization behavior. The mothers in each family were the main respondents in the study. Results: Socio Economic Status: Most families are migrants from other areas, now residing in resettlement areas, near factories, in garbage dumpsites, and in rural areas. Majority of the families were moderately deprived. In general, the socio-economic attributes of the families surveyed indicate that they have the potential to uplift themselves if policy-makers can work on the variables which will enhance their positive characteristics. Health and Nutrition Status: Illness in the family is very common, with fever and flu topping the list. The most vulnerable groups for illness were found to be children under six years and mothers. About half of the preschoolers in these barangays are reported to be underweight, with the level of malnutrition seeming to be related to ordinal position of the child, number of preschoolers the family has, income bracket, and location of residence of urban poor families. Health-Seeking Behavior: Visits to the doctor are positively and significantly related to individual attributes of the mother, institutional variables, and need. Six out of ten families visited the barangay health center, and not only for curative but also preventive care. Visits to these health facilities are positively and significantly related to the age of the father, awareness of the mothers on the services extended by the center, home visits of the barangay health personnel, and the number of sick family members. Families in general are aware of the different health-related programs and activities organized by the center and by various groups in the community. Response of the mothers regarding planned health and nutrition programs seems encouraging. Majority of the mothers interviewed in this study are greatly interested in participating in the activities of the planned program. Recommendations: Target groups of the program should be children below six years and mothers. The program should include projects and activities necessary toward solving the health-related problems of the communities. The program's approach and strategy must consider that health, from the point of view of the urban poor, is a family concern. For effective health service delivery, it appears practical and appropriate for the program to focus on the poorest and the most needy communities or even families. It appears crucial for the program to recruit highly committed and hard-working health personnel, who, in turn, should be offered adequate rewards and incentives. Given the type of health-seeking behavior of the communities studied, preventive care given by the health centers must be reinforced and strengthened. Community participation and mobilization of residents as well as local officials must be maintained as an underlying principle in the implementation of the program. Process documentation, continuous monitoring, and formative assessment must be incorporated as part of the entire program package to ensure effectiveness and attainment of program goals. The program must provide mechanisms for sustainability and continuity of the projects and activities even when funding stops. Lastly, certain barangays were pinpointed as priority areas for the program.


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