Health: Everybody’s concern

By Roberto R. Romulo, The Philippine Star

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) continues to face economic and social development challenges and has one of the country’s worst health indicators. The Zuellig Family Foundation’s (ZFF) work in the ARMM started with four municipalities in 2008. Significant improvements in maternal and child health were achieved in these municipalities. This experience laid the groundwork for ushering in more partners and LGUs in the region. Under a partnership agreement with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), ZFF expanded to 24 more municipalities.

Last Oct. 14, ZFF jointly organized with the DOH, USAID and DOH-ARMM a Colloquium that marked the culmination of a two-year Health Leaders for the Poor Program participated in by leaders from the 19 municipalities in ARMM.

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ZFF chairman Romulo and ARMM Health Secretary Sinolinding presented a certificate of appreciation for USAID and as a token of gratitude and farewell, a Bayanihan sculpture, to Ambassador Goldberg.

Despite the challenges, there were six LGUs who achieved the Philippine target of 90 percent in skilled birth attendance and facility based deliveries. These municipalities were recognized during the Colloquium: Taraka and Masiu in Lanao del Sur; Sultan Mastura in Maguindanao; Tandubas in Tawi-Tawi; Kalingalan Caluang in Sulu and Akbar from Basilan.

ZFF chairman Romulo and ARMM Health Secretary Sinolinding presented a certificate of appreciation for USAID and as a token of gratitude and farewell, a Bayanihan sculpture, to Ambassador Goldberg.

While there have been marked improvements in maternal health and tuberculosis outcomes, program results also show the continued need for interventions in the ARMM.

DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial said “the Department cannot do this alone, we need partners, and we need you to be able to help us meet the challenges.” This perfectly coincides with American Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s message, wherein he cited that from “2012 to 2017, USAID is contributing more than three billion pesos to Mindanao and ARMM, with 500 million pesos specifically allocated for health activities.”

Vice-President Leni Robredo stressed in her keynote speech that “the key to ARMM’S progress is good governance, strong and honest leadership, transparency and accountability….. I believe that is why Zuellig’s and USAID’s health program is working so well.

“We all know that when mayors first get elected, they have no idea about the intensity of public health challenges they will face. More so the solutions that are urgently needed. Programs like yours (DOH) and partners like Zuellig and USAID allow mayors to quickly understand the problem and become a catalyst for change. The mayor understands that he needs to go beyond medical missions or paying for the medicine and hospital bills of his constituents, establish a clear vision for health change and be a health ambassador, so that his constituents develop co-ownership of health programs…. Ultimately, he must be committed to providing health services to all, especially the poor.”

On behalf of the Zuellig Family Foundation, we wish to thank the DOH, USAID and ARMM for their sustained support of our Health Leadership and Governance program.

This column can also be viewed at http://www.philstar.com/business/2016/10/21/1635639/health-everybodys-concern.