Cagayan de Oro City: Translating disruptions to opportunities

Cagayan de Oro (CDO) City Mayor Oscar Moreno has prioritized health throughout his extensive political career. Even as congressman (1998-2004) and governor (2004-2013) of Misamis Oriental, he strived to improve health services, with the province’s enrolment in the Philippine Health Insurance Company (PhilHealth) among his achievements.

Under Moreno’s leadership, CDO became a partner in two cycles of the Zuellig Family Foundation’s (ZFF) partnership program with the United States Agency for International Development (2013-2020). Since then, ZFF’s interventions, including regular coaching, enhanced Moreno’s and the local health officers’ capacities to improve their health system and address priority health issues.

Despite a reduced budget, the mayor transformed the ill-equipped Justiniano R. Borja General Hospital (JRBGH) into a premier hospital on its way to a Level II hospital accreditation–meaning it will have specialists for gynecology and pediatric services and additional facilities such as intensive care unit. He also modernized 19 other urban health centers that needed PhilHealth accreditation as maternal and child care facilities or birthing homes.

In 2019, the DOH selected CDO as one of the pilot sites for Universal Health Care (UHC) integration because of its outstanding implementation of PhilHealth’s Sponsorship Program (SP). The city spent ₱160 million to enroll 80,000 individuals in PhilHealth’s SP that year. Moreno also pledged a ₱2-billion budget to improve the city’s health services, including plans to build four mega health centers.

Adolescent-friendly city
The city had a high adolescent birth rate—the highest in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) at 57.8% in 2019. In November 2020, Moreno committed to reducing teenage pregnancy in the city through The Challenge Initiative (TCI) in the Philippines. Co-funded and co-managed by ZFF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, TCI promotes positive health-seeking behavior and improves access to family planning programs. CDO allotted P6.5 million for TCI’s 2021 implementation.

Among the high-impact approaches adopted by TCI was the Youth Leadership and Governance Program (YLGP) of ZFF. Following this approach, Moreno formed the CDO’s Oro Youth Development Council (OYDC) with representatives from student bodies, out-of-school youths, faith-based and community-based sectors, and other advocacy groups. He also spearheaded the Technical Education, Skills Development, and Employment Committee to offer skills development and employment facilitation to fresh graduates, out-of-school youth, recovering drug dependents, and other disadvantaged groups.

By adopting various proven ways to address youth-related challenges, the adolescent birth rate in CDO decreased to 33% in 2021. The city will also have an adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive plan fully integrated with its UHC program.