By Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go CONGRESS has recently allocated P100 million for the deployment of a National Telehealth System. It is about time we do this because the technology is available and its application in health care can improve the health status, indicators and track the outcomes. It addresses the various health inequities that we currently observe. Telehealth may be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone as a referral or mentoring call, or as complex as using satellite technology and video-conferencing equipment to conduct a real-time consultation between medical specialists in two different locations. Telemedicine is a general term for the use of communications and information technologies for the delivery of clinical care. Telehealth addresses the lack of human health resources in remote areas. It can bring limited clinical expertise to areas where the expertise absent and is badly needed to save lives. Furthermore, the system can save cost of travel and unnecessary expenditures in poverty stricken areas or in facilities with inadequate expertise. It also can be used to improve PHIC (Philhealth) services. Imagine a patient due for check out from the hospital, his relatives need not have to absent from work, and to get a certificate from the employer of the patient to prove that Philhealth remittances are paid over the last 3 months to be considered eligible for health coverage. A computerized system will make the process of payment, checking payment by PHIC and hospital convenient and easy for the patient. Telehealth can also be used for long distance health professional education, cutting down the dependence on pharmaceutical industry to use corporate funds for continuing education of doctors and hence cut the cost of medicines. There will be less expenditures for travel and various fees. In addition, telehealth can also improve the coordination of blood banking to save lives. At the moment, the system for blood banking is dangerously inefficient because there is no centralized inventory and information system. Moreover, telehealth can also track the number of health professionals and monitor where they are so that there is better utilization of resources and expertise when needed and to project investment for the future. In aid of better disease tracking and creating an up to date epidemiological database for evidence informed policy making and implementation, telehealth can generate the statistics from the community in real time. This deployment is a result of the successful pilot of the UP Manila National TeleHealth Center (UPM-NThC) system led by Dr. Alvin Marcelo, which is currently in service between UPM-NThC and its provincial sites in Batanes, Pasay, Marikina, Quezon Province and Capiz, among others. The current UP Manila telehealth system is able to provide basic electronic health record registry via the Community Health Information System (CHITS), audiovisual education to local health workers and professionals through E-learning and video conferencing, and tele-referral and tele-mentoring to Doctors-to-the-Barrios (DTTB) using SMS technology through the Buddyworks Program. Unless we want to remain in the backwaters of healthcare in this new millenium, this P100 million for telehealth is a good way to improve healthcare and affect the lives of Filipinos in our far flung communities. *Kenneth Hartigan-Go, MD is the Executive Director of the Zuellig Foundation. He was a former professor of pharmacology and toxicology of the UP College of Medicine and was also a former deputy director for the DOH-Bureau of Food and Drugs. He is also a regent of the Philippine College of Physicians. He is also with the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering Expert Panel on Health.
February 2009 Archives
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines—The Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering (Comste) is looking at filing a bill to mandate a national telehealth or telemedicine system in the country. Representative Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya who is also co-chair of Comste is set to file the National Telehealth Service Act of 2009 to push the use of information and communication technologies in the delivery of medical care. The proposed measure aims to benefit patients and medical professionals who can now use Internet technology to tap medical expertise. This could be done through remote medical procedures via teleconferencing. Abaya said in a statement that the bill needs the cooperation of government and public sectors “to pave way for new, better ways of delivering health services to the public,” especially to marginalized sectors. The bill is based on the experience of UP Manila Telehealth Center, which is able to provide basic electronic health record registry via the Community Health Information System (CHITS), audiovisual education to local health workers and professionals through E-learning and video conferencing, and tele-referral and tele-mentoring to Doctors-to-the-Barrios (DTTB) using SMS technology through the Buddyworks Program. In an interview, Dr. Alvin Marcelo, head of the UP Manila National Telehealth Center, said UP Manila is collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab Research Group to implement Moca, an open source-based mobile application which can capture clinical information and images from the field and send remotely to a waiting physician. Alison Perez, staff of medical informatics unit, UP College of Medicine said the UP-MIT collaboration started when Dr. Leo Celi from MIT, who is also an alumnus of UP College of Medicine, met UP Manila's group during the International Conference in Open Source in Health in Penang last November 2008. Perez said MIT is eyeing the Philippines as test site for the Moca application. Marcelo's group and MIT had an informal agreement to assess the deployment of Moca in the country. Possible sites of testing include Pasay City and Capiz, Perez said.
By Dennis Posadas* Contributor THE Philippines held a National R&D Conference at the University of the Philippines last December 2008 to try to synergize its research and development (R&D) efforts in science and technology, particularly in the government. The conference involved most of the government departments and state colleges and universities that have R&D programs. At present, like in most countries, R&D budgets are scattered across many government R&D units and agencies. Getting these agencies and their staff to work together can sometimes be a gargantuan undertaking. In a December 2008 article in the Washington D.C. based journal Science, the Philippines was reported to have spent $81million in R&D in 2007, and this spending has remained basically the same throughout the last decade. This amount represents roughly 0.14% of GDP, a far cry from that of developed countries which often reaches 2%, and is also less than its regional neighbors like Thailand (0.26%) and Malaysia (0.69%). Worse, this amount is not a homogenous figure but is actually the sum total of government R&D spending scattered across many departments and agencies. In a country colonized by Spain and the United States, where the saying goes that it went through âthree hundred years of the Church and fifty years of Hollywood,â the normal mode of operation is to take the allocation from the national budget, and in a laizzez faire manner, do whatever one institution or department pleases in R&D. Now this approach may work in countries that have a lot of money to bet on whatever one fancies. Silicon Valley for example in the United States has never adopted any national roadmap for R&D. Instead, its legions of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists pursue their own ideas and let the market decide which ones will be the winners and which ones will eat the dust. But that should not be the case for developing countries like the Philippines. While $81 million is a lot of money for S&T in this country, nevertheless it is chump change compared to other countries. Notwithstanding the fact that labor is cheaper here, even to hire MS and PhD science and engineering graduates, the fact is that scattering this money in a random manner will not yield useful economic results. Take for example the fact that many state colleges and universities are duplicating R&D efforts, instead of trying to find a way to divide up the work and specialize in particular fields. This tends to weaken further the already small amount devoted by this archipelagic country to R&D. A Keynesian (named after economist John Maynard Keynes) national R&D approach should be adopted by the Philippines, where the national S&T roadmap is set by scientists and technologists from the ground up. The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) has picked some fields that the Philippines should specialize in. Since it wields the funding carrot, it has some ability to direct the areas of research. But it has not totally been successful in this effort, judging from the outcome of the National R&D Conference. In order to drive a nail into a piece of wood, you need a strong strike in a concentrated place, and not a lot of small taps in many places. Obviously if you only have $81 million to bet (although this will probably see some increase), you need to pick certain winners and drop certain fields. A small amount of random research, picked from the grassroots by universities themselves can be allowed, but the bulk of the money should be put in certain areas where it can produce results ranging from published papers, to patents, to commercialized technologies, particularly since the need of the times calls for the creation of new jobs and industries from R&D. Take for example the recently passed Renewable Energy Act of the Philippines. This new law creates a mandate for electric utilities to purchase renewable energy in increasing amounts over the next few years, and gives a lot of fiscal incentives and tax breaks to entrepreneurs and investors who go into this area. Obviously this mandate creates a market for clean energy technologies, many of which can be supplied by clean technology companies spun off from R&D. In fact, a renewable energy R&D center, funded by fossil fuel levies, will hopefully create the technologies that can form the basis for new companies and jobs in this sector. But that will only happen, just like in the hammer and nail analogy, if the R&D is in synch with the investor community, with the needs of the market, with the legal and financial framework, and with the culture of the researchers and entrepreneurs. A laizzez faire mentality works in the U.S. but here, it looks like a Keynesian big hammer approach where everyone coordinates their efforts is the only way to achieve this, especially since the amount of money is, by world standards, quite small. The problem is complex, and involves financial, legal and cultural constraints. But there are certain issues that can be resolved that will lead to a realignment of R&D money in the Philippines. First, the percentage of R&D spending to GDP ratio is too simplistic. If one compares the percentage GDP of R&D in the Philippines to Thailand and Malaysia, obviously it is too small. But this ratio does not say anything about how you use this money effectively. One country can have a slightly smaller percentage GDP ratio, but if it spends that money more efficiently than another country that has a greater percentage GDP ratio, then that difference may not be of much consequence. A proper metric, aside from percentage GDP, should include a measure of how well the country is able to publish papers, is able to issue patents, and is able to commercialize technology, from a unit of currency spent on R&D. Otherwise, the focus is on the total amount spent on R&D, which may not be enough to solve the problem. Second, while the capability of scientists to innovate is important, it is also important that they be willing to work in synch with other scientists and with other scientific institutions, in order to complement each other and not have redundant efforts. One issue that complicates things is a difficulty in getting agreement on what technology directions to pursue. The anthropologic and cultural cause of this issue is beyond the scope of this article, but that is what we see in the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). National directions in S&T might be set and arrived at from the top, but this does not always trickle down to the bottom. Perhaps the answer lies in using technology to get everyoneâs inputs, and then show where the scientific and technical community consensus lies. Third, the politician should marry the scientist. To some extent, the politicians who run COMSTE have been trying to do this, but the impact on the public imagination still needs some work. The ideal is of course, a JFK exhorting Americans to go to the moon, or a Barack Obama pledging to cut dependence on Middle East oil in ten years. Those national statements, coming from American politicians, have been based on the advice of noted scientific groups in the U.S. But in the Philippines, a general distrust of politicians coupled with a lack of real mainstream media interest in science, and a lack of clear communication between politicians and scientists, seems to have made what can be bang into a whimper. Lastly, the traditionally rigid government bureaucracy (of which I am a part) needs to allow for some flexibility. Take for instance auditing and purchasing. Best practices in procuring scientific and technical materials and equipment need to be benchmarked with fast moving countries, without sacrificing proper purchasing and procurement regulations. There is of course a reason why these rules were installed in the first place, but they also need to take into account the speed of technology change, in order for the Philippines to remain competitive in S&T. Surely countries like the Philippines need to increase their R&D spending beyond the current levels. But to simply equate progress in R&D with an increase in spending will not be enough. How the money is spent to yield published papers, patents and marketable technologies is the more important problem that needs to be faced. More importantly, it is not just about the money, but it is about getting a national consensus of the politicians and the public to back those R&D programs solidly, from private sector support, to investor support, to legal and non-government organization support, to even the public support. Until this synergy happens, the promise of R&D in science and technology will never be fulfilled. Like in roulette, sometimes the answer is to put your chips in as many places as you want to ensure some small wins. But in these gloomy economic times, it looks like as Keynes would argue, it is time for everyone to agree that government needs to make the best big bets in certain areas and skip other areas, in order to create new industries and jobs. Dennis Posadas is the Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). He is also the author of Jump Start: A Technopreneurship Fable to be published by Pearson Prentice Hall this April 2009.
Izah Morales INQUIRER.net A NEW rodent species discovered in May 2006 in Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental needs a wider area of habitat, researchers said. Currently, the Batomys hamiguitan or the Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat lives in the Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, which is 6,834 hectares in total surface area. However, this sanctuary is adjacent to seven Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) also in Mt. Hamiguitan which cover 17,572 hectares, which is half of the mountain's cover. Leonilo Rivera, DENR Protected Area and Wildlife Division Chief of Region XI, said that expanding the protected area will take some time. However, Edwin Domingo, assistant director of DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau, clarified that there is no mining activity yet in Mt. Hamiguitan. "We don't have any conflict with [the] protected area. Normally, pinag-aaway kami [they let us fight]. Any and all protected and critical areas proclaimed as watershed are closed to mining applications, so if by chance, nagsubmit ka sa amin ng [you submit an] application, and we find out when we double check that you're encroaching in this, we have to tell you that you have to [take] that out," said Domingo. Domingo said the mining applications have already existed prior to the proposal to make the area a protected area. "It is not up to us in the DENR to make that categorical statement because in the NIPAS [National Integrated Protected Areas System] law, there is a procedural guideline. There is a process for consultation. We are not in the position to say, yes or no," said Domingo when asked on their action on the requested expansion of the protected area. Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System NIPAS law protects "outstandingly remarkable areas and biologically important public lands that are habitats of rare and endangered species of plants and animals representative of bio-geographic zones and related ecosystems." Through Republic Act 9303, Mt. Hamiguitan was declared as a protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary in July 2004. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, Mt. Hamiguitan includes at least 11 endangered vertebrate species. "We are requesting the Protected Area Management Board to consider expanding the current protected to cover the majority of the habitat of the rare and restricted Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat," said Jayson Ibañez, coordinator of the field research program of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF). Researchers from the US-based Field Museum of Natural History discovered the Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat during an expedition in the Davao region. Researchers along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the PEF collected specimens from Mt. Hamiguitan and conducted a biodiversity survey that led to the discovery of the new species. "It took three years because we compared it with other specimens to determine whether it's a new species," said Ibañez. "The Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat is the first mammal to be described from Eastern Mindanao and is the first mammal that is thought to live only in that area. Most mammals unique to Mindanao were described from Mt. Apo or Mt. Kitanglad. This points eastern Mindanao, especially Mt. Hamiguitan as a biologically unique part of the Philippines," added Danilo Balete, team leader and lead author from the Field Museum of Natural History. In a statement released by DENR, it described the Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat as a yellow-brown animal with a long furry tail, which weighs about 175 grams and lives only in elevations of 950 meters and up, and in dwarf mossy forests of areas less than 10 square kilometers. Ibañez added that four species of the genus Batomys can be found in the country. The species Batomys dentatus and Batomys granti lived in Luzon, Batomys salomonseni in Mindanao, and Batomys russatus in the Dinagat Island. DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said that there is a very high rate of more discoveries of new species in the country, but some of these species might already be threatened before they are discovered. "The Philippines has one of the largest numbers of unique species of mammals [in] any place in the world; over 125 mammal species live only in the Philippines. There is truly a wealth of animal and plant life here that is worth protecting," said Lawrence Heaney, curator of Mammals at the Field Museum, in a statement. The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau endorsed the inclusion of Mt. Hamiguitan to the UNESCO World Heritage. "Mt. Hamiguitan fully deserves to be among the global heritage sites," said Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau director Mundita Lim. The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources and Development (PCCARD) noted in its website that Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental is also the country's largest pygmy forest, which is also known as a bonsai forest. PCCARD reported that the mountain has been a home to five endangered species, 27 rare species, 44 endemic species and 59 economically important species. These include the golden-crown flying fox, Philippine tarsier, Philippine warty pig, Philippine brown deer, Philippine Mossy-pygmy Fruit Bat, and the Asian Palm Civet.
Izah Morales INQUIRER.net Is your school engaged in green and eco-friendly activities? All public and private elementary, high school, and colleges are encouraged to join the National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools. The competition is the response of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to Republic Act 9512, which is a law promoting environmental awareness through education. "With their efforts recognized, we can encourage students, faculty and school administrators to adopt and promote eco-friendly practices in their schools, homes and communities," DENR Secretary Jose Lito Atienza said. Interested schools are required to submit a brief description of their environmental project in line with the theme, "Sustainable and Eco-friendly Initiatives." Only one entry per school will be accepted. Elen Basug, Chief of Environmental Education and Information Division of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), said that participating schools should first download an official entry form from EMB's website. Entries can be supported by documents, such as memoranda, school policies, photos of activities, videos, published articles, certificates, among others. For those joining the elementary and high school category, three copies of the documents should be submitted to DepEd division offices. For the tertiary level, entries shall be accepted by the EMB regional office. Winning schools in the national level shall receive P 50,000 (1st prize), P 40,000 (2nd prize), and P30,000 (3rd prize) with plaques of recognition. On the other hand, finalists in the regional level shall be given certificates of recognition and a P 5,000 cash prize. The winning entries will be displayed during the national awarding ceremonies in November 2009. The DENR launched this initiative along with the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and Smart Communications. Entries should be submitted on or before April 30, 2009. For online submission, entries should be in JPEG format with a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi), a minimum size of 1536 x 2048 pixels, and a maximum file size of 1MB and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MANILA, Philippines—A US scientist admonished Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco for “dangerously misrepresenting” a scientific study in a bid to make the lawmaker’s proposal to reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) “look good.” Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said he was dismayed Cojuangco misused the 2005 study the American and two fellow scientists made. "I am dismayed that our paper was cited by Cojuangco in his exploratory note. He is being ignorant of scientific data," said Rodolfo. Cojuangco authored a House bill seeking to revive the $2.3-billion BNPP mothballed over two decades ago. A visibly angry Rodolfo, during a Friday conference on nuclear power at the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS), accused Cojuangco of "dangerously misrepresenting" the scientific study, which covered the geology of Subic Bay. Rodolfo, also an adjunct professor at UP-NIGS and a staunch critic of nuclear energy, argued that the paper did not certify the safety of the area where the BNPP is located. A heated exchange ensued during the open forum when Cojuangco tried to rebut Rodolfo's accusations, saying that the rest of his proposed measure was based on solid scientific data. Cojuangco also said that the bill was meant to ensure long-term availability of power in the country and reduce the effects of global warming. But Rodolfo rebuked Cojuangco saying that the lawmaker should have understood the purpose of their paper, which studied geologic faults in Subic Bay and not Natib where the BNPP stands. Rodolfo said his team even found by accident some geologic faults previously undetected. These could in fact cause some danger to surrounding areas of Subic, which includes Natib, some 10 kilometers away, he said. "What you're doing is cherry-picking arguments that would make your proposal look good," Rodolfo said. Trying to calm down, Cojuangco finally apologized to Rodolfo and said he would amend his bill. "I'm going to try to put amendments in my explanatory note that you are anti-nuclear." Rodolfo also posted online a statement about the alleged misuse of the study.
We recently got this feedback from Mr. Romeo Ybanes.
Why haven't your reporter and editor realized until this Feb. 12 issue that the 'dolphins' that were stranded in Bataan were in fact melon-headed whales. He could have asked the animal experts that checked the whales for the correct identity of the species. I'm sick and tired of reading wrong information in prestigious newspapers like PDI. This is the result of reporters who don't check the facts before reporting.This article written by INQUIRER.net reporter Alex Villafania identifies these animals stranded off the coast of Bataan as Melon-headed whales.
MANILA, Philippines – Tuesday's stranding of an unusual number of melon-headed whales in the coast of Pilar, Bataan should spur the government to pursue more studies on the country's marine mammals, an expert said Wednesday.The story further quotes an expert that says that the melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra) are listed under the family Delphinidae, commonly known as dolphins. Also, check out this slideshow of actual photos of the stranded melon-headed whales:
On Tuesday morning, news of hundreds of dolphins stucked in the shallow waters in Bataan baffled scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). What could have driven these animals to shore at the risk of drowning. According to one Filipino scientist, the dolphins could be reacting to a "heat wave or disturbance at sea" such as a possible major underwater earthquake. Some interesting details from the Izah Morales' story on INQUIRER.net:
Dolphins, which are mammals, have ears that are sensitive to large changes in pressure underwater, he said. "If their eardrums are damaged they become disorientated and they float up to the surface." ...smaller schools of dolphins numbering "in the tens and twenties" had beached themselves elsewhere in the Philippines previously, but this was the first time so many had done so at the same time and place.This story was eventually picked up by foreign media, including the Daily Mail, which collated photos of the phenomenon. What drove those animals to swim to shallow waters? (Photo courtesy of AFP)
Agence France-Presse LONG BEACH--US university researchers have created a portable "sixth sense" device powered by commercial products that can seamlessly channel Internet information into daily routines. The device created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists can turn any surface into a touch-screen for computing, controlled by simple hand gestures. The gadget can even take photographs if a user frames a scene with his or her hands, or project a watch face with the proper time on a wrist if the user makes a circle there with a finger. The MIT wizards cobbled a Web camera, a battery-powered projector and a mobile telephone into a gizmo that can be worn like jewelry. Signals from the camera and projector are relayed to smart phones with Internet connections. "Other than letting some of you live out your fantasy of looking as cool as Tom Cruise in 'Minority Report' it can really let you connect as a sixth sense device with whatever is in front of you," said MIT researcher Patty Maes. Maes used a Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference stage in Southern California on Wednesday to unveil the futuristic gadget made from store-bought components costing about $300. The device can recognize items on store shelves, retrieving and projecting information about products or even providing quick signals to let users know which choices suit their tastes. The gadget can look at an airplane ticket and let the user know whether the flight is on time, or recognize books in a book store and then project reviews or author information from the Internet onto blank pages. The gizmo can recognize articles in newspapers, retrieve the latest related stories or video from the Internet and play them on pages. "You can use any surface, including your hand if nothing else is available, and interact with the data," Maes said. "It is very much a work in progress. Maybe in ten years we will be here with the ultimate sixth-sense brain implant."