CFI hosts national webinar on leprosy

In celebration of World Leprosy Day, the Culion Foundation, Inc. (CFI) orchestrated a national webinar entitled “Beat Leprosy: Navigating the Leprosy Clinical Pathways” held on February 2, 2024. Attended by more than 150 participants from all over the country a majority of whom were physicians, nurses, and other public health professionals from both the public and the private sectors, the webinar aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the leprosy clinical pathways guidelines including recent advances in diagnostic modalities of the disease, its clinical manifestations as well as its prevention and control strategies.

Taking the center stage as a resource speaker, Dr. Abelaine Venida–Tablizo, Chair of the Leprosy Interest Group of the Philippine Dermatological Society and Head of the Infectious Dermatology and Leprosy Unit of Rizal Medical Center (RMC), shared a sobering reminder that “leprosy is not going to disappear soon” in the country. She reported that there were 1005 new cases of leprosy recorded in the country in 2022 and 52 cases were reported among children aged below 15 years old in 2021. These alarming statistics show that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. Dr. Tablizo cautioned that “failure to keep leprosy in mind, leading to underdiagnosis, is a serious matter”. She ended her presentation by advocating for synergistic, comprehensive, and multi-sectoral approaches to combat the disease effectively, rallying the audience to unite in their efforts toward a leprosy-free Philippines. Echoing Dr. Tablizo’s sentiments, Dr. Francesca Cando-Gajete, the webinar’s reactor and former National Leprosy Control Manager, commended the strides made in leprosy control, citing innovative measures such as telemedicine and tailored e-learning modules as well as the clinical pathways guidelines which were developed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She challenged the audience to continue the good work emphasizing that even though leprosy was declared eliminated at the national level, there are some packets of cases at the subnational level.

As part of the highlights of the event, Dr. Fatumbi Bayo, Team Lead, Communicable Diseases, World Health Organization, lauded CFI for hosting the webinar and emphasized the importance of continued dialogue and action in combating leprosy. He pledged the WHO’s unwavering support in mobilizing resources to aid the Philippines in its quest to eradicate the disease, stressing the need for granular data and expanded healthcare integration such as mental health support to patients affected by leprosy.

Moderated by Dr. John Jefferson V. Besa, CFI Senior Program Manager for Health, the event opened with remarks from Mr. Eugenio M. Caccam, CFI Executive Director. Mr. Caccam recounted the Foundation’s historic role in leprosy control, citing the successful elimination of the disease on Culion Island in 1999, then the largest colony of leprosy patients in the world. He reaffirmed CFI’s commitment to advancing the discourse on leprosy and expressed optimism in the collective effort to overcome this biblical affliction.

As the webinar drew to a close, Mr. Emerald Amurao, CFI HR Manager, reiterated the message of triumph over leprosy, urging stakeholders to forge ahead in solidarity. “We have won this battle against leprosy in the past, and we will prevail once again, together,” he declared.

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