#IdeasPositiveRun6: Building a kuto-free, healthier Philippines
"At first glance, Miag-ao West Central Elementary School in Iloilo is just like any other public school. However, if you look closely, you will notice something that sets them apart from other elementary schools. The students are clean, confident, and free from head lice.
At first glance, Miag-ao West Central Elementary School in Iloilo is just like any other public school. The children rush to class, raise their hands during recitation, or chat with their friends in the hallways.
However, if you look closely, you will notice something that sets them apart from other elementary schools. The students are clean, confident, and free from head lice.
For most children, having head lice or pediculosis is something that is considered a normal part of childhood. But more people don’t realize that pediculosis can have harmful repercussions—especially when it happens to children.
Grade 6 student Felrose Gervacio admits that she used to have head lice. “Dati, palagi akong umiiyak pag kinukuhanan ako ng kuto ni mama. Di ako makapag-concentrate sa pag-aaral ko, palagi akong kamot nang kamot,” she shares.
Maria Aina Brillantes, also in sixth grade recalls, “Mahiyain po ako at wala po akong kaibigan dati, kasi may kuto ako.”
Team PHCares, composed of Bea Daayata, Maulene Namuag, Krisleen Mayormita, Carl Deala, and Romena Castor, with mentor Dr. Philip Ian Padilla, chose to address the issue of pediculosis in the school, saying that the condition is rampant yet highly neglected. They shared, “Nung unang monitoring, tinatawanan nila yung project namin. Sabi nila, ‘Mahalaga ba yun?’ Iniisip namin baka may iba pa sigurong mas mabuti. Pero nung ginawa na namin yung project, na-realize nila na may effective way pala para makuha yung kuto, at may effect din pala sa bata yung pagkawala ng kuto.” The team members are Public Health students from University of the Philippines-Miag-ao Campus.
The team introduced the use of Kontra Kuto Kits, each of which contains a fine-toothed comb or suyod, hair clips, and other accessories. The team conducted workshops and demonstrated how to remove head lice permanently using the kits. Team PHCares also established a core team to continue the project in the long run.
One member of the core team is Ma. Rofelie Acosta. She says, “Marami talaga ang may kuto. Nung dumating yung Team PHCares, nagulat kami na nakuha lahat. Nalinis po ang mga buhok ng estudyante. Na-educate ang mga parents kung paano matanggal ang kuto.”
The team went to five barangays during their summer break, and they continued the campaign during the start of the school year.
The school principal notes, “Yung mga bata, mabuti na’ng sila ang mag-aral na maalis ang kati sa kanilang ulo.” She adds, “Hindi na ito programa lamang. Tuwing Biyernes may hairobics kami, at ang mga Kuto Troopers ay gagawin ang kanilang assignment para maging kuto-free ang eskwelahan.”
Currently, there is no government agency implementing a health care program to address pediculosis.
Because of this, the team wrote to the National Pediculosis Association of America to ask for assistance. The PDAA provided support the team by donating specialized hair combs that can effectively remove even the smallest head lice.
Team PHCares’ Romena shares their secret to success, “Hindi ganun kasimple na ‘Hello, eto yung project namin, sumama ka.’ Kailangan mo mag-build ng totoong relationship at makipag-connect sa tao. Unti-unti, maa-accept nila na para sa kanila ‘tong project na ito.”
Now with long, kuto-free hair, Aina shares, “Madami na po ang mga kaibigan ko, matataas na po ang mga grades ko, at wala na pong kuto ang ulo ko.” Aina is just one of the 546 students from five barangays in Miag-ao, Iloilo, who are now kuto-free because of the project.
The team calls out to interested groups and organizations who can help scale up their project. “Ang pangarap lang po namin ay sana madala ang project namin sa lahat ng mga paaralan sa buong Pilipinas,” says Maulene of Team PHCares.
Team PHCares is a group of five public health students from the University of the Philippines-Visayas. The team was awarded Grand Champion of Ideas Positive Run 6, for treating 500 students of Miag-ao West Central Elementary School in Iloilo from pediculosis or head lice. The team introduced the use of Kontra Kuto Kits, complemented by an information campaign. The award was given at the Ideas Positive National Youth Forum on Public Health, held at Bayanihan Center, Mandaluyong City, on August 12, 2016.