Duterte urges DepEd to boost health education after doctor’s cancer warning

The government is aiming to boost health literacy among Filipinos to better understand, prevent, and respond to pandemic or disasters.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on August 24, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte has directed Education Secretary Leonor Briones to ensure the people would at least have “a basic level of health literacy skills” to know how to effectively deal with health situations. His directive came after revealing that his doctor had warned him that his Barrett’s esophagus was “nearing stage one cancer”.

“Next year, health literacy will be an important item in our schools' curricula,” the President said in a message to Congress on the proposed 2021 national budget submitted on Tuesday.

“For this purpose, I have given specific instructions to Education Secretary Leonor ‘Liling’ Briones to capacity our educators/teachers to have sufficient and reasonable information to help our citizens equip themselves with at least a basic level of health literacy skills to better respond to a pandemic or disaster, in particular the prevention of infection,” he said.

According to the President, health literacy will help empower communities on health promotion and prevention programs. “Through this, the role of each and every one of us will no longer be passive. We will do our part in avoiding the creation of secondary transmission chains,” he said.

The President also urged private schools to help the government improve health literacy among Filipinos. Public-private educational partnerships could grow in importance during these trying times, he added.

Under the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 submitted to Congress, the education sector will get the largest slice of the budget with an allocation of P754.4 billion.

The President said the bulk of the amount will go the Department of Education with P606.6 billon, followed by Commission on Higher Education with P50.9 billion, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority with P13.7 billion.

He said the government's priorities for the education sector have been “reshaped – even reset” to respond to the adoption of flexible and blending learning. He said they intend to pursue the P15.2 billion expansion of multi-modal learning and teaching options as well as DepEd's P9-billion computerization program.

For 2021, Duterte said the education department aims to print 944.4 million learning modules as well as provide transistor radios for learners who have limited access or have no access to technology.

At least 37,221 multimedia packages, that include a laptop and a television set, will be distributed in public schools across the country, according to the President.

DepEd will also set aside P24.1 billion to build 5,1174 new classrooms and buy 38,917 sets of school seats, among others, under its basic education facilities program next year.