Dr. Teofilo San Luis of the Iodine Global Network leads the information campaign on the effect of low iodine levels to natal development.

A medical mission was conducted for a 1-day health service and information campaign following a survey that revealed Palawan as ranking high among provinces nationwide with low iodine levels among women of reproductive age.

The Thyromobile Medical Mission, a program created by the Iodine Global Network Philippines (IGNP), conducted a one-day medical mission and testing on the 8th floor multipurpose hall of Ace Medical City on August 15.

The medical mission included screening women of reproductive age, including pregnant and lactating women, as well as conducting urinary and blood tests, thyroid ultrasounds, and quantitative testing of iodine content in household salts.

Dr. Teofilo San Luis Jr., the national coordinator for IGNP who conceptualized the Thyromobile medical mission, stated that women of reproductive age should take good care of their thyroid health.

“Low iodine levels are especially detrimental to pregnant women, when you have a lump below, and then a lump above, on your throat. A goiter during pregnancy is bad,” he noted.

“Iodine helps with the development of children’s central nervous system, and if pregnant women and mothers raising kids are giving enough iodine to their children, then that would prevent cretinism,” San Luis added. “Unfortunately, Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) is a nationwide problem.”

The average median urinary iodine concentration (UIC) is marked at 100 micrograms (µg) per liter of urine. Any level of iodine measured 99 µg/L and below is considered to be deficient in iodine. Palawan has a median UIC of 91 µg/L, which is why it is marked as among the 15 provinces with the lowest median UIC, and a high chance of IDD among its population.

The thyromobile medical mission, named so after the vehicles carrying medical equipment and testing kits to targeted areas, was done to serve as an example for LGUs to conduct their own thyroid health testing in targeted areas.

“The thyromobile is here to model the concept, or the operation of the concept to bring thyroid healthcare delivery to the underprivileged,” said San Luis.

“Importante din yung sa public information, that this is something na eye opening. (…) The product is the model. The product is, education, testing, and information dissemination. We want the LGUs to pattern their health services [like ours] kasi madali lang naman,” he added.

The mission was implemented in Puerto Princesa by the Philippine Medical Association, Palawan Medical Society, City Government of Puerto Princesa, Ace Medical Center Palawan, and JCI Puerto Princesa Peacock Inc., in partnership with the IGNP, Rotary Club of University District Manila, Salinas Foods, Inc., the Philippine Thyroid Association, the Thyroid Federation International, and the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), Palawan is one of four areas in Luzon that had a lower median UIC, along with Mountain Province, Benguet, and Pangasinan.

This indicates that the average salt intake of the residents does not provide sufficient iodine levels in their systems, which negatively impacts children’s brain development.

The mission of the thyromobile aims to raise awareness in these communities about the importance of iodine in nutrition.

“Ang maganda sana dito is to have this institutionalized, like we do with our TB projects, with other nutrition projects, so yung mga local governments, both the city and provincial governments can look into it, na isama sa mga screening ng pasyente sa Palawan yung iodine screening,” added Dr. Ivan Michael Vicente, president of the Palawan Medical Society, who worked with IGNP on bringing the medical mission in the city.

“Ang totoo naman ay hindi importante ang van. Ang importante ay ang laman, kasangkapan, supplies. Health testing is just one of those, if you have the proper equipment and support from the LGUs,” he added.

Both the Palawan Medical Society and JCI Puerto Princesa Peacock tapped the residents in barangays to get their free thyroid health checkups and screenings during the event.

“Maganda po talaga yung mission, very relevant since yung mga participant po natin ay mga nanay. Maganda para mas aware yung community natin sa hinaharap,” noted Mary Abbygaille Tinay, president of the JCI Puerto Princesa Peacock Inc.

“We are willing na mas mapalago pa po yung ganitong klaseng program, especially in partnership w Palawan Medical Society,” she added.

The Thyromobile will continue their medical mission in Cebu this September, and Bukidnon in October.

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