Health Champions in 12 Municipalities Recognized

By Ellen Licup, M.D.

Two years after expressing their commitment to improve health outcomes in their communities, health champions of 12 partner-municipalities from the second cohort of the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) showcased their achievements through a colloquium held last October 25 in Dusit Thani, Makati City.

With the theme, “Local Leaders Championing Health of the Poor,” the colloquium began with a press conference that had in attendance Health Secretary Enrique Ona, ZFF chairman Roberto Romulo, ZFF President Ernesto Garilao and mayors of the 12 municipalities.

Over the past two years, the mayors, municipal health officers and selected community leaders from the 12 municipalities worked to establish and strengthen the health systems within their localities. Anchored on the World Health Organization’s six building blocks for health systems, they implemented reforms, innovations and strategies to ensure people receive the adequate and appropriate healthcare that they rightfully deserve.

“Local executives need an insight into their people’s real health needs and possible solutions, an insight that the Zuellig Family Foundation provides with this program,” said Secretary Ona in a speech delivered by DOH Director Eduardo Janairo on Ona’s behalf. He added that, “Mayors, as leaders of their local health systems, need to share this insight with their local health personnel and the DOH which is the agency which can possibly provide the additional investments—technical and financial—needed to make local health system flourish.”

Collectively, skilled birth attendant assisted deliveries in the 12 municipalities rose to 69% in 2011 from 51% in 2009. In the same period, facility-based deliveries increased to 64% from 36%. As a result, maternal mortality ratio fell from 193 in 2009 to 44 in 2011. As of the first nine months of the year, it stood at 22.
“The improved health indicators may be attributed to a committed public leadership,” Garilao said as he relayed the story of Cohort 2 by introducing ZFF’s strategic framework called the Health Change Model.

To further advocate for local health systems strengthening, success stories and innovations acquired over the span of two years were gathered and crafted into videos shown during the colloquium. The videos featured stories on health financing and medicines, health service delivery, health human resource and health information systems. Each film showing was followed by a question and answer segment that allowed the mayors to share with the audience their insights on the issues and challenges they encountered.

During the event, ZFF trustee and former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez Jr. also emphasized the importance of building strategic partnerships between government and the private sector to attain better health outcomes for the poor. As a response, Sanjiv Navangul, Managing Director of Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Philippines, presented its partnership project with ZFF which is aimed at improving maternal and child health outcomes.

In his closing remarks, ZFF trustee Daniel Zuellig said, “There is now real momentum towards the reform of our public health system. We are witnessing this in all our ZFF-partner municipalities. And as ZFF continues to cooperate with the government…with private companies, funding agencies and other development organizations, we are confident that we will see continuity and further innovations in the health programs that have been producing better health outcomes.”

Zuellig also added that the Foundation “will continue to help make sustainable healthcare reforms possible, because we want to, and because we know that we are able to.”

Each of the 12 municipalities received a Plaque of Appreciation from ZFF in acknowledgment of their accomplishments. The 12 are: Romblon’s Cajidiocan, Magdiwang, and San Fernando, Minalabac in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon’s Pilar and Prieto Diaz, Samar’s Daram and Pinabacdao, Leon Postigo in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur’s Lapuyan and San Pablo, and Tungawan in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Booths were also set up to showcase objects of pride from each of the municipalities.