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ro4b 2016 wa kangaroo careMangyans are a peaceful yet reclusive group of indigenous people who reside in remote areas of the Mindoro Island. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity for the Municipal Health Office of Abra de Ilog in the delivery of various health and nutrition services. Despite this barrier, the Municipal Health Office of Abra de Ilog continues to reach out to the community of Mangyans. One of the instances that have shown their dedication in bringing health services and eliminating malnutrition in the community is teaching a Mangyan mother to perform Kangaroo Mother Care on her low-birthweight infant.

A pregnant Mangyan mother living along the coastal area of Sitio Cabasingan, Barangay Udalo who was on the verge of her due date was accompanied by a barangay health worker and a nurse and were bound for the Municipal Health Office for labor and delivery last November 2015. Their journey involved crossing a river, 2-hour walk to reach the barangay proper and a ferry ride. However, their journey was halted midway as there was no available boat during that time and the delivery cannot be delayed thus, the baby was delivered on the nearby shore. They were then transferred to the Municipal Health Office for post-partum care as the boat arrived. The baby, although full-term, was low-birth-weight as she weighed only 1.9 kilograms then. The health office staff strongly advised the mother to stay for further care but she refused.

Seeing the environment of the sitio where the mother resides that might pose a risk to both the health of the mother and the survival of the baby, the health office staff decided to teach the mother on performing kangaroo care (KC) to maintain the infant's temperature. The husband and the grandmother was also taught in case the mother needs to do other things. They were also provided with an improvised tube cloth to be used for the Kangaroo Care. Upon the close monitoring of their neighbor BHW, the Kangaroo Care was continued by the family. This, along with exclusive breastfeeding resulted to the gradual improvement of the infant’s weight. The small-for-gestational age infant then is now weighing 5kg after three months which is “normal” using the WHO weight-for-age indicator.

Kangaroo Care is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, who is naked except for a diaper and a piece of cloth covering the infant's back, is placed in an upright position against a parent's bare chest. Through this method, the baby’s heart rate, breathing and temperature are regulated as it synchronized to the mother. Continuous skin-to-skin contact creates a conducive environment for the baby’s growth as the bonding gives comfort to the baby, preventing it from stress and disturbance of sleep. Undisrupted sleep and assisted breathing, heart rate and temperature conserves energy and redirect the energy expenditure for growth. In addition, Mother-child bond stimulates the initiation of breastfeeding and production of breastmilk. Also, through continuous breastfeeding, the baby’s weight gain increases reaching to normal level.

Although Kangaroo Care has a lot of benefits, it is a tedious task. The mother’s health and nutrition is crucial as she will be the only source of the baby’s needs. Kangaroo Care’s effectiveness is achieved when it is done continuously therefore it will limit the bearer on doing other task. Through the inability of the bearer to perform other tasks, commitment to kangaroo care may falter.

Upon the counselling and postpartum care, the Mangyan mother’s health is good. The husband and the baby’s grandmother were willing to perform kangaroo care for the survival of the child and they commit to support the mother in case she has to do other tasks.

The Municipal Health Office of Abra de Ilog showed their resourcefulness in providing alternative actions complementing the customs of Mangyans. Also, their perseverance in reaching out to far-flung areas to provide health services despite the reclusive culture of Mangyans is indeed commendable.
This act can serve as a foundation in connecting to the tribe of Mangyan in promoting good health and nutrition.