PCCH 2019 Puts People in Community Health in Spotlight
By Hanna Ho (Class 2022) and Lordom Grecia (Class 2021)
Photos courtesy of the UP Regionalization Students Organization (UP RSO)
The sixth Philippine Conference on Community Health (PCCH), organized and hosted by the Regionalization Students Organization (RSO), was held last March 2-3, 2019 at the University of the Philippines Manila campus.
The theme Aninag: Pagkilala sa mga Usapin at Lingkod-Bayang Humuhubog sa Kalusugang Pangkomunidad aimed to bring to light the uncommonly discussed issues in community health. These include the medical workers at the forefront of community health (midwives, barangay health workers, and rural health nurses), sexual and reproductive health in the community setting, indigenous medicinal practices intertwining with modern medicine, and the approach to mental health.
The first day of PCCH 2019 was focused on plenary sessions, where different experts from their respective fields gave deeper insights on health in the context of a community setting. The opening remarks for the event proper were given by the Dean of the UP College of Medicine (UPCM), Charlotte M. Chiong MD PhD. Dean Chiong gave a perfectly fitting message to kick off the two-day event, saying, “We just have to observe, to listen, and be involved. Malasakit lang, ‘yon lang ang kailangan para makatulong sa bayan.”
Following the opening remarks were a message from the adviser of RSO, Abdel Jeffri Abdulla MD, an introduction to PCCH, and an intermission number by UP Manila Dramatista and the UP Medicine Choir.
The keynote address was then delivered by the Vice President of the Philippines, H. E. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo. She has worked with community health workers and the marginalized in remote areas of the country, and one issue she pointed out was poverty.
“Where poverty is high, malnutrition is worst. When they remain poor, you also incapacitate them,” she says.
The Vice President put a spotlight on the importance of collaboration of different sectors. “To solve community health problems, ‘di lang doktor ang susi,” she says. “It also needs the government and focused, driven officials.” She also emphasized that she is not for medical missions, but for sustainable and accessible healthcare.
The plenary sessions began after the photo ops. The first talk, entitled “Situationer on the Current Status of Community Health in the Philippines”, was given by Gene Nisperos MD, and Paolo Medina MD. Dr. Nisperos, fondly known by students as “Doc Gene,” started the talk with his essential dictum, “Health is a fundamental human right.” He then proceeded to deconstruct the facades and question the work the government has put into community health.
“Bakit deployment? Hindi employment? Because we’re not looking at the long term,” he said.
The talk was continued by Dr. Medina, who talked about how the poor are exploited and abused. He emphasized that we must address not just the person’s illness, but the environment they live in.
“What good is it to treat a person’s illness if the person will return to the conditions which made him sick at the first place?” he said.
Doc Gene continued to change the audience’s perspective, asking, “How much of the world are we ready to change? How much of us are we committing?” and “We want to tell people to have quality of life, but how do we give them quality life?” He drove in his point of how accurate information does not reach these communities, saying “The absence of genuine information happens because we are inaccessible to our patients.”
After a quick lunch break, the plenary sessions continued. Ryan Guinaran, Founding Executive Director of the non-stock, non-profit non-government organization DITENG, Inc., gave a talk entitled “Indigenous Health Practices and its Role in Community Health.” He reminded the audience that culture must be integrated with clinical care and that it should serve as a guide.
“In order to achieve a 20/20 vision, I hope you develop both your clinical and cultural eye,” he says.
An activity was then given to participants, asking them to come up with a short presentation explaining what a culturally-sensitive health worker is.
The last talk for the day was entitled “Improving the Management of Occupational Hazards in the Community,” given by Vivien Fe Fadrilan-Camacho MD, MPH, FPAFP, an Associate Professor at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, UP College of Public Health. She highlighted the fact that employees are usually the ones who are most at risk, saying that most of the people who suffer from occupational injuries are the rank and file employees.
“The focus of occupational health is prevention,” she says on how these hazards in the community may be improved.
Afterwards, the attendees of PCCH 2019 proceeded to the Socials Night Rooftop Party, themed “Kaliwangan sa Atop”, held at Astral Towers at Padre Faura Street. Participants interacted and discussed new learnings as well as destressed from a long day of lectures.
The second day of PCCH 2019 began with a plenary on the “Role of Primary Healthcare Workers in Community Health” by Joan Rose Lampac MD, a municipal health officer (MHO) and part of the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program at the Municipality of Danglas, Abra.
“A lot of the illnesses we encounter in tertiary hospitals are actually preventable by going to the community, talking to the people, and urging them to have better health seeking behaviour,” she says, recognizing barangay health workers as the true heroes of community healthcare.
Small group discussions (SGDs) in Paz Mendoza Hall followed the plenary. Participants were divided into fourteen groups, with four to eight people per group. The SGDs, facilitated by RSO members, featured DTTBs from different municipalities all over the country, barangay health workers, and faculty from the Community-Oriented Medical Education (COME) unit as speakers. Discussions included how the speakers got to and explored their field, challenges they encountered in community, the role of the government, and participants’ perceptions of healthcare workers, all tied in with the principles of primary healthcare from the Alma Ata declaration.
Participants returned to the main theater for the next plenary session on “The Development of a Community-Oriented Approach to Mental Health” by Windalyn G. Baluis RN, MN, Mental Health Program Manager, DOH – Region V. Ma’am Baluis talked about how important it is to make sure that mental health should be included in all levels of health care facilities. She stated that policies must first be developed to support these systems.
After a quick lunch, the plenary sessions continued. Activities for lunch and the afternoon sessions were all cancelled, save the integrative session given at the end of the day.
The final plenary for PCCH 2019 was on “Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Community” by Winlove Mojica, MD, FPDS, FPSVI, and Joanne Karen S. Aguinaldo, MD, FPOGS, FPSURPS. Dr. Mojica focused more on sexual health in the community.
“They say sexual education starts at home. But what if the parents themselves don’t know what sexual education is?” he says.
Dr. Mojica voiced the importance of sexual education and how government sectors like the DOH and DepEd should be confident in teaching these. Dr. Mojica explained that health workers must counter the spread of misinformation online, to spread awareness, and stop the stigma against HIV.
Dr. Aguinaldo focused on reproductive health, and she highlighted the statistics of the maternal mortality rate in the Philippines, which is 114 per 1000 women compared to Malaysia’s 1 per 1000 women. She emphasized that reproductive health is a fundamental right and not just about the baby and the mother. Men should also be included in the conversation of reproductive health, as it is important that everyone be properly and accurately informed.
For the integrative session, a culminating activity was done in groups with RSO members facilitating. This game-style session sought to apply what the participants learned in a theoretical community setting (which varied from mountainous, coastal, etc.), considering all facets of community health — vaccinations, TB programs, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and everything in between. It was an excellent way to integrate all the learnings and experiences from the two-day event.
The closing remarks were then given by Erika Sia, RSO chairperson, and certificates of appreciation and tokens were awarded to speakers.