Zuellig Family Foundation eyes to expand tie-up with local officials for rural health promotion

The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) bared on Tuesday its plan to expand the coverage of its Health Change Model (HCM) that will tap provincial mayors, notably in the regions, to safeguard and promote the  health and well-being of their respective constituents.

“We will integrate them [mayors] maybe after the elections next year,” ZFF President Ernesto D. Garilao told the BusinessMirror in a sideline interview during ZFF’s Health Leadership and Governance Symposium held at the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center in Makati City.

While he did not go further into the details of their plan, the foundation apparently considers tapping the mayors in provincial areas so as to achieve better results for HCM—a strategic objective it developed in 2018 toward the full realization of its mission, mainly focused on rural health.

“Basically, HCM says that you need public health leadership,” he said of local government officials, who are responsive in changing the health system to provide constituents with equitable access to health services.

“And if you have that, your better [health] outcomes will emerge.”

With this framework, ZFF’s first intervention was to improve the health services where the poor turn to—the rural health units of local governments—which include working with municipal mayors and his or her health leadership team.

To train them, the foundation designed the Health Leaders for the Poor program, which equipped the local chief executive with an understanding of the inequities in his or her health system, and what needs to be done to reduce such. Likewise, it allowed the mayor to bring together his or her internal bureaucracy. as well as his external stakeholders to co-own the shared vision and response, and come up with new institutional arrangements to bring in equity in the system.

From 2009 to 2013, ZFF tried the HCM in 72 municipalities in nine cohorts of various combinations. The focus was on maternal health. They went through a two-year program, consisting of five-day face-to-face training intervention, and in between a six-month practicum that enables them to fix the health system.

The results showed that mayors can become champions for health; they need an easy-to-understand and measurable scorecard with clear corresponding leadership acts to improve their health systems; and they need mentoring and coaching in transforming their health systems, according to Garilao.

Because of these positive outcomes, an opportunity to scale up the HCM came in late 2013, when then Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona challenged the foundation to transfer the approach to their agency and work with priority municipalities of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

With this development, ZFF forged a program partnership with DOH—the Health Leadership and Governance Program. All of the operating costs in this initiative, including training costs of academic partner trainers, were covered by the foundation.

The tie-up has three major elements: transfer of technology; capacity building of regional academic partners; and provision of resources, funding and others to facilitate the responsiveness of local health systems to the needs of the poor.

Building upon the results of their interventions in local governments, ZFF engaged other partners to further expand the reach of the HCM. As response to the Philippine Health Agenda, it then started working with provincial governors and DOH regional directors in 2016.

“We again saw this as a window of opportunity for a provincial governor to exercise leadership in the integration of curative and preventive care,” said Garilao, while citing their establishment of the Provincial Leadership and Governance Program Version 2 and the Bridging Leadership Fellowship Program for DOH Regional Directors.

“These interventions are challenging because you see the two integrations: The first is between the provincial and the municipal health systems; and the next between the latter and the DOH regional support system. If the two integrations are done, then the local health system is better implemented toward better health outcomes. Our catalyst role is how to help make it happen,” he added.

To date, more than 600 municipalities and 23 provinces have been exposed to the HCM since its implementation 10 years ago. More than 400 DOH staff, including senior regional operations staff, together with around 54 faculty members from 13 academic institutions all over the country, have also been trained.

Financial support-wise, the Zuellig family has provided P800 million for all its programs over a decade. Collectively, the foundation’s partners have spent around P400 million. In the last five years, the DOH has spent P800 on top of the foundation’s own P150 million for the Health Leadership and Governance Program alone.

“All these are now part of the Zuellig family’s legacy of giving back to the country of their birth,” Garilao said. “What it leaves behind are local chief executives with better commitment for public health leadership and governance in partnership with health institutions that care for the same. The continued partnership of these two groups, plus the participation of a stronger public voice for health will be critical in the sustainability of this approach.”

This article was originally published in BusinessMirror  on September 26, 2018.