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The Fit for School Programme in the Philippines has been awarded with the P&G/Oral-B Award for Paediatric Dentistry and Prevention 2009 during the annual congress of the International Association for Paediatric Dentistry in Munich. This award is given to scientists who have done research or developed innovative concepts to improve oral health in the frame of general health.

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InWent D+C Article

In the Philippines, the central government controls the school system, while provincial authorities are in charge of health-care matters. Accordingly, a national preventive health programme in primary schools depends on funds from the provinces’ budgets.

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Fit For School (FFS) is a programme that ensures that children in government-run elementary schools wash their hands with soap every day, brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste and are de-wormed every six months. To implement the programme, the education and health sectors of the Philippines are pooling efforts.

Fit For School is also the name of the Philippine NGO that supervises the programme. Its work is supported financially and with human resources by InWent, GTZ, CIM and the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Because it is simple, effective and in line with global and national health policies, FFS is successful. Its acceptance was boosted considerably by a campaign run by various UN organisations and multinational soap manufacturers to mark Global Handwashing Day (see also Monse et al, E + Z/D+C, November 2008, S. 434f.).

The programme fits neatly into the structures of the centralised education sector and is thus easy to implement. The schools cooperate. What is more difficult is the funding and procurement of the materials by the local governments. Local education authorities (Schools Divisions) report to central government. They are responsible for implementation. The health sector, on the other hand, is decentralised, so soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and de-worming tablets are financed and procured by provincial authorities.

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InWent D+C Article

In the Philippines, schools are introducing simple and effective programmes to prevent common childhood diseases. This is a model case of policymaking.


[ By Bella Monse, Habib Benzian and Ralf Panse ]

ffs_dc1Primary health care is essential to improve the living conditions of poor people, as the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health emphasised in a recent flagship report ­(CSDH, 2008). Launching the report, Margret Chan, the WHO’s director general, stressed the relevance of preventive action. Pointing to escalating health-care cost she said: “We simply cannot afford the way we go about doing health care nowadays without tackling and doing more prevention.”

Schools are a good starting point for preventive action. During the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, the WHO agreed with UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Bank to cooperate on promoting and implementing health programmes in schools. As a guideline, they launched the Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH) framework, which recommends focusing on interventions that can be implemented everywhere, even in resource-poor schools of low- and middle-income countries.

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