Leadership Skills to Overcome Health Challenges

Managing health systems is complicated enough without the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we have mayors who have ably risen to the challenge. They all underwent the Zuellig Family Foundation’s health leadership and governance program.

Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, a ZFF trustee, pointed out the observed leadership skills, starting with leveraging personal and professional background.

During the recently concluded online forum organized by ZFF, local chief executives (LCE) from its partner provinces and cities mentioned their different careers before joining politics. This, according to Loyzaga, adds value to their role because it allows them to use a wider lens in understanding health challenges. Koronadal City Vice Mayor Peter Miguel developed advocacy for reducing maternal deaths when his late wife, who worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist, told him that no mother should die of childbirth. He strengthened maternal and child care in his city by upskilling the barangay health workers (BHWs).

Loyzaga noted that ZFF LCEs value partnerships with the academe and the private sector, whom Loyzaga said must be valued not just as donors, but as co-implementers. Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar involved private groups and government agencies in the city’s health agenda focusing on teenage pregnancy, rights of women and children, tuberculosis, and contraceptive use. Collaborations with the private sector allowed the city to manage the influx of locally stranded individuals and returning Filipinos amid the pandemic.

But effective health leadership does not end with owning and creating solutions. Loyzaga pointed out how trust-building is at the heart of behavioral change and public governance. LCEs must reach out to understand and build trust with their constituents. “It is the glue that binds our communities,” said Loyzaga.

Lastly, Loyzaga reminded the leaders to recognize the value of risk communications and the need to integrate it into their health programs at the very beginning. Risk communication builds trust and cooperation among the people and enables mutual dialogue and participatory decision-making.

ZFF conducted a series of online forums to highlight the accomplishments of its partner local government units (LGU) whose health leaders participated in the USAID-supported Institutionalization of Health Leadership and Governance Program. The IHLGP aimed to help LGUs provide constituents easier access to quality healthcare services and improve health outcomes.