UP Manila study on e-learning modules shows promise in addressing PH’s alarming birth defects

Chancellor Padilla presenting her study at the NAST meeting


August 9, 2022  — “The health of the baby depends on healthy parents and a healthy pregnancy,” said UP Manila Chancellor and NAST Academician Carmencita D. Padilla during her paper presentation at the National Academy of Science and Technology 44th Annual Meeting, July 14, 2022.

According to Dr. Padilla, majority of survivors from birth defects face a lifetime of significant disability. As a geneticist, Dr. Padilla finds that this occurrence is of special importance to her, emphasizing that there is an urgent need to address women and men of reproductive age – not just the pregnant women. In the Philippines, workers in their reproductive years comprise 68.3% of the working population. This data means that there is an economic impact to business as a result of adverse birth outcomes.

The project developed a prototype for a health education program that will improve the health knowledge, behavior, and outcomes of Filipino workers. Focused on preconception health that covers the spectrum of the lifespan of health, the research project “Workplace Wellness Across the Lifespan: Promoting the Health and Birth Outcomes of Young Workers in the Philippines Utilizing Educational Wellness Programs Focusing on LINC (Lifestyle, Infection, Nutrition and Contraception/Planning the Family)” was presented at the 44th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Department of Science and Technology-National Academy of Science and Technology (DOST-NAST) under the theme PAGTANAW 2050: Agham Tungo sa Mabuting Kinabukasan.

The landscape of Maternal, Nutrition, Child and Adolescent Health needs in Low Middle Income Countries (LMICs) has shifted in the last decade. Dr. Padilla reported that there are 23 million babies born with a serious birth defect of genetic origin or born preterm annually while 4.4 million children die from birth defects or prematurity in their first five years of life. In 2010, there were about 348,900 preterm births in the Philippines (2nd in Southeast Asia and 8th in the world). Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive workplace wellness programs nor any comprehensive health education program yet that focuses on preconception health.

To help solve these problems, a workplace wellness project was created under three compelling reasons. First, it offers a defined or captive target population. Second, many countries do not currently focus on younger workers or those who want to have children during their working years. Third, the March of Dimes (MOD) Healthy Business and Healthy Babies (HBHB) project has shown success in education in the workplaces.

Meanwhile, the three unique features of the study stand on its focus as a health program (versus occupational risks or one area of health), social class targeted – working women and men in reproductive age, and comprehensive health knowledge offered that is useful across a human’s lifespan. 

The research developed, implemented, and evaluated a health education program that will improve the health knowledge, behavior, and outcomes of Filipino workers. It was pilot-tested in specific worksites. Participative and interactive, an on-site implementation had 8 modules (14 lectures) produced under Phase 1 in pre-pandemic days. It took place in two work sites, a textile company and a setting with UP Manila employees. Major topics tackled the following areas: Lifestyle (Avoiding Risky Behaviors and Exposures to Harmful Substances; Managing Chronic Conditions), Infection (Infectious Diseases, Urogenital System and Sexually-Transmitted Diseases, Vaccination for the Prevention of Infections), Nutrition (Healthy Body and Physical Activity, Attaining Good Health through Proper Diet and Nutrition, Managing Nutrient-related Medical Conditions), Contraception (Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy; Importance of Family History in the prevention of Adverse Health Outcome), and Planning the Family (Dietary Supplementation during Preconception & Pregnancy; Screening and Vaccination Before, During, and After Pregnancy).

Initial results on Phase 1 showed an average percentage of knowledge increase among the participants in the two worksites. The research received high approval from the participants’ overall assessment. Interestingly, when asked if they shared this information with other members of the family, they shared whatever they learned with their friends, spouses, parents, and children. However, the face-to-face learning approach had its limitations in being time-consuming, costly, and limited reach.

The Phase 2 was also planned in pre-pandemic days. In Phase 2, taking advantage of the fact that majority of Filipinos are computer-literate and adept in various types of info and communication technology, the target population used an e-Learning approach that could acquire new knowledge easily, enjoyably, and conveniently. This time, it used web-based learning (desktop, mobile browser, mobile app), offline based learning (desktop application, stand-alone mobile app), and webinars. The modules were revised in Phase 2 into 63 bite-sized info and now had short titles for the app. The study used the UP Open University because it was customized for e-learning. Topics were also expanded from the initial topics in Phase 1. Target population was changed to UP Manila, Schools and Communities (Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health – Philippines Network), and one of Manila City’s Health departments and its birthing centers. 

Dr. Padilla shared their insights as they did the project, saying “We have to take care of the workforce. We have to target health promotion and disease prevention.” Dr. Padilla also encouraged management to support wellness in the workplace and to view it as a priority. Dr. Padilla recommends that it be endorsed by the National Union Federations and workplace unions and asserted that a Workplace Wellness Program needs a national policy recommendation.

Finally, Dr. Padilla concluded that it is important to prepare the reproductive population with health knowledge via e-learning. E-learning modalities can increase health knowledge acquisition at the participants’ most convenient time. E-learning that highlights remote access to knowledge is an effective alternative to traditional learning. 

The e-learning app for health knowledge is scheduled to come out in the following months.

Haziel May C. NatorillaPublished in UP Manila Healthscape Issue No. 41 (July 2022)


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