The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) in partnership with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) launched the Aruga sa Batang may Cancer (ABC) Initiative: A Web-based Pediatric Palliative Care Service Provider in the Philippines on 22 March 2018. The event was held at PCMC in Quezon City with representatives from collaborating agencies such as the Ruth Foundation for Palliative Care and Education and Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), fellows from PCMC and other guests.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. Primo G. Garcia, FMDS Dean, explained that that two-thirds of pediatric patients in the country are diagnosed at advanced stage of cancer, and 80% abandons treatment due to lack of properly developed palliative care, inadequate supportive care, cost limitations, and inaccessibility of services. In response to these problems, UPOU conceptualized the ABC Initiative to provide patients, caregivers and other healthcare providers an accessible means to information, services and experts related to palliative care through an online platform, especially for those who are outside Metro Manila. Dr. Garcia also recognized the important roles to be played by the partners and stakeholders in “making a difference in the lives of sick Filipino children”.
Asst. Prof. Loyda L. Natividad-Cajucom, Affiliate Faculty Member at UPOU and Project Leader of ABC Initiative gave a message of encouragement and urged everyone to help in the actualization of the project. There is a gap in healthcare delivery to pediatric cancer clients, and such a situation results in decreased quality of life for both the patients and their families. “We know that [the children] are the future of our country, so we hope that this program will really benefit all of them, including their parents,” said Asst. Prof. Cajucom.
The collaborators and funding agencies also expressed their support during the ABC Initiative project launch. UPOU Chancellor Melinda dela Peña Bandalaria said that the project is a big challenge for the university and that UPOU can only do more, reach more, and make this endeavor successful through the help of its partners and collaborators. Dr. Bandalaria proudly announced that the project will be the first web-based platform to improve palliative care service delivery in the country. She also said that the word “aruga” very much connotes the Filipino culture of how we care for our young, and that it signifies love and nurture. “The challenge now is how to translate this nurturing, this caring, this love or “aruga” in an online environment.” Dr. Bandalaria assured the audience that UPOU will make the project inclusive and accessible to the public through the use of mobile phones, and with the support from different internet access projects of the government. She even coined the hashtags #Aruga and #ABC and asked everyone to make it a trending topic so that more users can search it online and more people can be aware of the said initiative. “Our launching today is already a good start, and we can start from here to trigger other initiatives–even greater initiatives,” said Dr. Bandalaria.
Next to give a message was Dr. Vince Gomez, who represented Dr. Julius Lecciones of PCMC. Dr. Gomez congratulated the promoters of the project and acknowledged that the ABC Initiative was indeed very essential in making healthcare services more accessible to pediatric cancer patients. Dr. Mae Corvera, Executive Director and Founder of Ruth Foundation for Palliative Care and Education, also expressed her gratitude for making the project into reality. “Though our efforts may seem long and overdue, ABC Initiative is clearly meant to happen,” she said. Dr. Corvera believed that “Aruga” will not only improve the quality of life of the patients, but also their families.
In the closing remarks, Dr. Melinda F. Lumanta, UPOU Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, thanked the partners and collaborators for their dedication in pursuing this initiative. She concluded that the public will be assured of an accessible means to information and services related to palliative care.
A press conference immediately took place after the launch. (LPPetrasanta)