International Women’s Day 2023: Organon Philippines highlights urgency of sustained investments
Leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, global women’s health company Organon is challenging the healthcare ecosystem, as well as all the other sectors that directly and indirectly impact and depend on it, to consider the consequences of continuing to treat women’s health as an afterthought.
“Women account for more than half of the population and yet for far too long, women’s health issues have been underfunded, under researched and underserved. We acknowledge that there have been improvements in some indicators but we cannot rest easy because access to quality healthcare is still highly inequitable in our country. This is why we staunchly urge everyone to join our 10,000-strong global Organon community in taking action to improve innovation and investment across all areas of women’s health,” says Emman Tiglao, Commercial Director of Organon Philippines.
For the second consecutive year, the company is also providing its employees with paid time off to shine a light and speak out in service of women’s health.
Women at Heightened Risk
A great number of Filipino women take on caregiver roles in the family and community. Oftentimes, they end up ignoring their own needs, which hinders their personal growth and can lead to poor health. “Despite progress in literacy for women and reproductive laws being in place, tremendous gaps continue to exist in policy, research, and development efforts to advance treatment options for women,” says Tiglao. “Women’s wellbeing should be prioritized and tackled jointly with academics, investors, policymakers, researchers, and individuals if we want better health outcomes for all.”
Studies across numerous areas of women’s health reveal crucial and dangerous challenges that impact nearly all stages of her life.
- Unintended pregnancy remains a vast area of unmet needs. Population experts agree that beyond being a personal predicament, unintended pregnancies happen—regardless of a woman’s best efforts—oftentimes as a result of systemic issues like economic and social inequalities. According to the 2022 State of World Population Report by the United Nations Population Fund, 71 in every 1,000 women in the Philippines aged 15 to 49 went through unwanted or mistimed pregnancy within the current decade.
- A key issue under this theme is adolescent pregnancy. According to a 2021 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study, more than 386,000 Filipino girls aged 15-19 have begun childbearing. And while that number represents a decline from 2013, data also showed that more than half of the regions posted higher adolescent pregnancy rates than the national average. It should be pointed out that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries and yet those from ages 15 to 24 face the greatest disparities in terms of access to contraception.
- Child-bearing in itself is an area fraught with complications. While no woman should die because of pregnancy and childbirth, maternal health continues to cause challenges for women and their families. Although newborn deaths in the Philippines have gone down at 3,686 in 2022 from last year’s 4,424 as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), we have to remember that one death is still too many. The PSA study likewise noted a rise in maternal deaths due to complications from childbirth: from 425 in the first half of 2021 to 468 deaths in the same period the following year. In response to the worrying trend, the Department of Health sounded the alarm about the need to reform primary care. This involves addressing underlying illnesses that increase the likelihood of complications during pregnancy such as hypertension and other medical problems stemming from inadequate birth spacing, unsafe abortions, the presence of infections like sexually transmitted infections, and multifactorial diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
- The reality for many Filipino women today is that even as cardiovascular diseases can be treated and prevented, ischaemic heart diseases (where the arteries become narrowed so less blood and oxygen reach the heart) are the top reason for death among females in the Philippines in recent years. Risk factors include diabetes, emotional stress, smoking, physical inactivity, menopause, pregnancy complications, inflammatory diseases, and family history.
For Organon Philippines, all the gains and losses in women’s healthcare indicate a need to strengthen and sustain commitments in that area. Working with local and international partners, the company has been accelerating investments that help ensure crucial access to health products, so these reach the women who need them.
During the company’s first year in the Philippines in 2021, it was able to execute a partnership with the national and local governments to make progestin sub-dermal implant publicly available throughout the country as an effective and safe approach for birth spacing among women. It also continues to initiate communication campaigns to educate communities and update doctors and healthcare practitioners through trainings and conventions, such as on cholesterol management and responsible parenthood. For women at risk of cardiovascular disease, Organon has launched a new fixed-dose combination therapy that can lower lipids and improve cholesterol levels.
“When we work toward improving her health, we give girls a chance to stay in school, we enable women to have better work opportunities, and we remind her of her strength and power to make wise decisions,” Tiglao explains. “When we improve women’s access to quality health information and services, in the end it benefits not just herself but everyone.”