Oplan Goodbye Bulate: Philippines Says Goodbye to Worms

The Philippines’ deworming campaign this year, Oplan Goodbye Bulate, was incredibly successful. More than 11 million children were dewormed in the campaign, beginning July 29, 2015, with most areas of the country reaching at least 75% of the children enrolled in public schools, the WHO recommended target for mass drug administrations (MDAs) for soil-transmitted helminths (STH). The Department of Health has planned for the school-based deworming program to occur biannually, with deworming days every July and January.

The Philippines was heralded in the third progress report of the London Declaration, Country Leadership and Collaboration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. Along with Bangladesh, Brazil, Honduras, and other NTD-endemic countries, the Philippines has demonstrated laudable leadership in mobilizing domestic resources to support their own NTD programs. Of the entirety of the Philippines’ NTD program budget, an impressive 94% is domestic.

A banner encouraging parents to ensure their children are dewormed on July 29, 2015.

A banner encouraging parents to ensure their children are dewormed on July 29, 2015.

The leadership demonstrated by the Philippines is particularly exciting considering the NTD burden in the Western Pacific Region and worldwide. While NTDs exist in 122 countries, an overwhelming majority of the burden rests on a handful of countries, including the Philippines. Ten countries are home to roughly 70% of the global population that requires treatment for NTDs, including the Philippines, which ranks as having the eighth-highest burden globally.

Intestinal parasites, including soil-transmitted helminths, are a significant health burden in the Western Pacific Region. According to the WHO, 32 of 37 countries and areas in the region are affected. If Oplan Goodbye Bulate continues successfully, the Philippines could soon meet the WHO target, significantly reducing the NTD burden in the Western Pacific Region — and worldwide.

To learn more about how the Philippines accomplished this recent success, we spoke with Division Chief of the Infectious Disease Office, Dr. Leda Hernandez, about Oplan Goodbye Bulate.

Q: Congratulations on your successful deworming campaign – an effort that reached over 11 million school-aged children in one day. What do you think contributed to this impressive accomplishment?

The Philippines’ deworming campaign done by the Department of Education and Department of Health has been ongoing since 2006, using established guidelines and protocols. There is one major difference between previous campaigns and the July 2015 National School Deworming Day (NSDD). This year’s Oplan Goodbye Bulate campaign was conducted in one day simultaneously all over the country. Then, we have one week of “mopping up,” which means that we make sure to treat children who were absent on the campaign day.

Q: What did the departments observe about this year’s deworming campaign, compared to previous ones?

The final report was issued 30 days after the one day launch, held on July 29, 2015. Approximately three months of effort was concentrated on one day, making the NSDD more efficient and practical. Another difference was that this was teacher administered and health worker supervised. There are at least three important lessons that we learned from this experience.

First, a lot of resources (time, money and manpower) can be saved by strategically integrating and harmonizing the implementation period. Secondly, timeliness of reporting can be significantly improved to promptly elicit available evidence-based data for decision making. And thirdly, the Integrated Helminth Control Program can now focus on integration of complimentary interventions such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and social and behavior change communication (SBCC), because of the time and financial savings.

Q: You created short videos and flyers about Oplan Goodbye Bulate to spread the word about the campaign. Why were these communication materials important to encourage participation? Were there other materials and outreach efforts that helped raise awareness of NTD treatment?

Advocacy and a lot of lobbying were vital to influencing local government unit participation. The Department of Interior and Local Government offered its people to provide manpower (health workers) to supervise the mass drug administration especially in geographically disadvantaged and isolated areas. Team work and collaboration by the three government agencies, support from partners, plus active community participation made a lot of difference and became our winning formula for good public service delivery.

However, as you know, misinformation can have damaging effects. It made us realize how fast information can spread like wildfire and that we should be prepared for that. However, it also made us realize that working together and solving issues early on was one of the strengths of this organization in times of crisis.

Q: Can you describe a particular community that has seen remarkable progress?

All regions were competitive and showed enthusiasm to beat their own previous records. There was a spirit of healthy competition and a desire to perform better, which is a good sign for everybody. All regions are now looking forward to the next round where they can apply good practices that they learned from one another during our consultative meeting last October.

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