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Jan 25, 2010
New Philippines DHS shows small improvements in children's health

Manila, Philippines
The Philippines continues to make slight but steady progress in improving children’s health and reducing fertility, according to the newly released 2008 Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS). More children are living past their fifth birthday, and fertility has declined very modestly.

Infant and child mortality have declined steadily over the last 15 years, according to the 2008 PDHS. Nationwide, 25 children per 1,000 live births die before reaching age one, down from 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 and 29 in 2003. Mortality rates differ widely by residence and birth intervals. Rural children face a higher risk of death than urban children. Children born less than two years after a previous birth have particularly high infant mortality rates—35 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 18 deaths per 1,000 live births for infants born three years after the previous birth. Increasing family planning use to space births by at least three years will contribute to reducing infant and child mortality.

Almost one in three births (30 percent) are born less than two years after a previous birth, increasing risks to child and maternal health. Married women in the Philippines have, on average, 3.3 children. This represents a modest decrease over the past decade from 3.7 children in 1998 and 3.5 children in 2003. Some women are still having very large families, however. The poorest women in the Philippines have at least 5 children, on average, compared to only about 2 children among the wealthiest women.

Just about half of married women are currently using family planning, although only one-third of married women are using modern methods. Nationwide, use of both modern and traditional family planning has increased from 49 to 51 percent since 2003, the date of the last PDHS. Urban and rural women are almost equally likely to use modern methods, but use varies widely by region, ranging from a low of 10 percent in ARMM to a high of 45 percent in Davao and 46 percent in Cagayan Valley. Oral contraceptives are the most commonly used modern method, followed by female sterilization and IUDs.  

One in five Filipina women age 15 to 49 has ever experienced physical violence, and 7 percent experienced such violence in the past 12 months. Husbands and partners are most likely to commit this violence, according to the PDHS, which included questions on gender-based violence for the first time. Survey results clearly show the inter-generational impact of gender-based violence. Women whose own mothers were beaten are almost twice as likely to experience physical or sexual violence as women whose fathers did not beat their mothers.

The 2008 Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey included a nationally representative sample of 13,594 women in almost 12,500 households. Survey results provide estimates for the Philippines as a whole, for urban and rural areas, and for the 17 administrative regions.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) carried out the survey. ICF Macro, an ICF International Company, provided technical assistance with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.