Health: A fundamental right often denied

On the opening day of the three-day colloquium of academic institutions involved in a capacity-building program for mayors and public doctors, former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan underscored health as being a fundamental right of all individuals. Unfortunately, Galvez said, “It is also the most vulnerable and one of the most denied.”
Such health inequity continues to persist in the country, worsening the health outcomes of the poor as well as preventing the country from achieving its Millennium Development Goals on health.

Given the complexity of health challenges, several stakeholders have come together to overcome these. Among them are the academic institutions that were tapped to deliver health leadership and governance capability-building program to mayors and municipal health officers of different municipalities.

These academic partners are part of the Department of Health’s program with the Zuellig Family Foundation. The partnership program follows ZFF’s strategy, the “Health Change Model,” which posits that leadership is the key to jumpstarting health system reforms needed to reduce inequities and improve health indicators.

The joint initiative, called “Health Leadership and Governance Program,” began in 2013 now counts 12 academic partners that have provided training to mayors and MHOs from over 500 municipalities.

Last Wednesday, representatives of the 12 came together for the first time to deepen their appreciation for “Bridging Leadership” (BL), which is the principal framework used in turning each mayor and MHO into a leader capable of bringing people together, bridging societal divides and working towards common health goals.
Aside from Galvez Tan, participants heard the leadership journeys of individuals who were among the first to get the bridging leadership training in the Asian Institute of Management.

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. spoke about the difficulty of shifting military strategy from enemy-oriented to people centered in solving conflicts and insurgency. His efforts would eventually lead to the creation of the Civil Military Operations battalions unit in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Miriam Suacito talked about how her faith-based, Christian NGO Nagdilaam Foundation continues to thrive in the predominantly Muslim province of Basilan despite setbacks, which included having had two of her staff personnel kidnapped. Her leadership has earned the trust of the community—the military, common townsfolk and even the More rebels.

Leadership that understands and respects culture allowed Easterluna Canoy to fix the serious misunderstanding between the military and indigenous people in Mindanao.

Theirs and five others’ stories showed how strong and collaborative leadership solved complex problems and won popular support. They showed how leaders who accept ownership of a problem and work with their people could possibly fix health system failures and minimize inequities.