DOH stands pat on free choice of family planning methods for couples

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 August) – A top official of the Department of Health (DOH) today said the agency has remained unfazed by the opposition of the Catholic Church to the family planning program of the government.

DOH Assistant Sec. Dr. Nemesis Gako. Mindanews Photo by Keith BacongcoIn a news conference here, Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Nemesio Gako said that despite church resistance their health providers would continue telling couples they are free to choose between natural or artificial family planning methods.

Gako also assured that the health service providers are adhering to the policy of informed choice, which allows couples to choose the family planning method that they think would work for them.

The government, he said, is also willing to provide necessary assistance to the needs of the couples according to their choice.

The Catholic Church has always opposed the artificial birth control methods being promoted by the government, calling it anti-life and contrary to church teachings.

Gako added the health workers are always reminding couples about their program on birth spacing, informed choice and respect for life (BIR).

The health official also clarified that the family planning program has no specific targets in terms of the number of couples who would avail of their services such as tubal ligation and vasectomy in a certain period.

“Our target is defined when there are ten women for example who want to undergo tubal ligation, then only the 10 are our target that should be accomplished,” Gako stressed.

He also clarified that the program does not intend to curb population growth but aims instead to achieve quality of health and quality of life.

“Our campaign is not to reduce the population but to inform the public. Then they can have their own choice,” he pointed out.

Even the health service providers cannot suggest to the couples what method they should use. They can only present the advantages and disadvantages of the different family planning methods, he said.

Earlier this morning, the DOH and the United States Agency for International Development-funded Health Promotion and Communication Project (HealthPro) launched their family planning campaign program in the region.

Gako, who was among their guests, added that similar events will also be launched in other parts of Mindanao soon.

In a separate statement, Dr. Teogenes Baluma, regional director of the DOH in Region 11, said the revitalized family planning campaign strategy also aims to shift from the “method-centered” to the “benefit-centered” approach.

“The strategy also aims to increase the proportion of couples who practice modern family planning methods as well as the men and women of reproductive age who access information and services on family planning,” Teogenes said.

The strategy will be supported by a pre-tested communication package which includes posters, brochures, “wait and educate” DVD for family planning clients and flip charts and reference charts for health service providers, he added. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)