I wrote this article during my stay at the Bureau of Animal Industry as Program Specialist. This article tackles about the innovative response of the bureau to address the problem in reporting and its consolidation from local to the national level. With this strategy, the monitoring and surveillance of animals and animal diseases become easier and therefore, quick and proper disease management and control will be effectively implemented.
Animal diseases like foot and mouth disease (FMD) and other pandemic diseases can cause major market downfall not only to the livestock industry but also to related manufacturing sectors dependent to the industry. However, with quick and proper disease management and control coupled with effective information campaign and prevention strategies, animal diseases can be effectively controlled and in some cases eliminated.
This is dramatized in the case of FMD – from its highest number of outbreaks in 1995 affecting 99,000 animals down to its total eradication in almost all regions of the country. According to Dr. Reildrin Morales, deputy head of the National Foot and Mouth Disease Taskforce (NFMDTF) and officer in charge of Animal Health Division of the Bureau of Animal Industry, the creation of a computer program known as Foot and Mouth Disease Information Management System (FMDIMS) was one of the strategies that effectively helped the taskforce in the management and control of FMD.
In 2001, the Task Force gained significant recognition from the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health by declaring the Mindanao Islands as FMD FREE without vaccination, followed by the Visayas Islands in 2002. Early this year, the Northern (ZONE 1) and Southern Luzon (ZONE 3) were also recognized as FMD FREE. While Central Luzon (ZONE 2) particularly the areas of Pangasinan, Region 3 except Aurora, Region IVA and NCR are in pending applications. Nevertheless, the Task Force is very optimistic that the application will eventually be approved and makes the Philippines as one of the only three countries in South East Asia as FMD FREE.
With that, the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) particularly it’s Animal Health Division (AHD) is determined to improve this computer program to effectively address the ultimate threat of the industry – not only for FMD, but all other animal diseases. The system is now called Philippine Animal Health Information System or Phil-AHIS.
Phil-AHIS is a computer-based tool use to store and process electronic data designed to enhance the animal health information management capability of the country by providing standard, timely and information-based reports through the use of automatic report generation.
The system will serve as centralize database for animal health information in the country, aimed to help frontline personnel in the field, researchers, policy makers, farmers, stakeholders and other animal production specialists in the formulation of information-based decisions relevant in the prevention, management and control of animal diseases.
One of the advantages of the system is its compatibility to other analytical tools such as the Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. This makes the system more useful in terms of disease surveillance and investigation.
Phil-AHIS has two major components: The Surveillance and Vaccine Usage System (SVUS); and the Computerized Animal Disease Diagnostic Information System (CADDIS).
The SVUS component is consists of two major animal health activities – the surveillance and vaccination management. This component will include outbreak reports, health routine services, vaccine sources as well as vaccine distribution and usage information. While, CADDIS is consists of information about laboratory results like necropsy, blood chemistry, clinical pathology, bacteriology, rabies, titter and others.
The deployment of Phil-AHIS is composed of three levels of trainings. The first level training involves the regional information technology (IT) and veterinary focal persons, and focuses on database management, configuration and troubleshooting. The second level training will involve the provincial report officers including IT and veterinary counterparts. The training focuses on data encoding and system familiarization. While, the third level training involves the municipal or city front line personnel, including livestock inspectors and agriculture technicians. This is the most critical part of deployment training because it is where disease reports will originate. The third level training focuses on the use of standardized forms, basic animal disease recognition and management, as well as risk communication.
Phil-AHIS is now running in four pilot regions with its SVUS component in Regions 1, 3, 8 and 11. While progressive systems roll-out is currently being implemented in all other remaining regions of the country.
According to Dr. Morales, this project is very important not only to address the multiplicity of problems brought by animal diseases but also to bring positive outlook to the then ruined market due to pandemic outbreaks. He also said that this project is a significant step to restore and revitalize the industry by regaining the trust of the local consumers and will open the opportunity to get into the increasing world market.
“When these disease problems are addressed, the productivity of the sector will surely increase. Thus, making a significant impact not only to increase the income of small farmers but also help the government fulfill its ultimate goal of ensuring food security and food safety for the country.” Dr. Morales added.
The nationwide deployment of Phil-AHIS is also supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Sub-regional environmental animal health management initiative for enhanced smallholder production in South East Asia, known as EAHMI (Edmun B. Agron)