Last January 5-11, 2015, I attended the 13th University of the Philippines Global Health Course at Bahay Silungan, Morong, Rizal, Philippines. It was sponsored by the University of the Philippines College of Medicine’s (UPCM) Community-Oriented Medical Education (COME) Unit and Social Medicine Unit (SMU) and by the Peoples’ Health Movement – Philippines and was also generously funded by the University of Tampere’s Duodecim – Finnish Medical Society. The course was intended to educate health sciences students about the issues affecting the local, national, and global health, and to equip us, student-leaders, with essential skills which we can use as we go back to our respective universities.
The program commenced with the Welcome Ceremonies in the morning of January 5 at the Alvior Hall, College of Medicine, led by the officials of UP Manila and UPCM. Despite most facilitators being medical doctors, they welcomed us who came from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) with open arms. The ambiance was so imperturbable that I never considered changing my decision to join, since I will be obliged to be away from my family for a week.
The following are the objectives of the course which I found very well attained:
- Describe the global health situation and issues that affect it.
- Analyze the country’s health situation in the context of the global health situation.
- Describe the different indicators used to monitor progress in national development and health.
- Describe and discuss factors that influence the way health is viewed and intrinsically shape the health landscape locally and globally.
- Identify basic skills in communication, advocacy and organizing.
- Describe the different strategies and efforts implemented in response to these issues.
- Formulate appropriate responses based on their local capacities
At the very beginning, I and my friend, Alex, thought that our actions might be restricted and that we will be forced to behave most of the time. But still, our mouths never stopped as we strolled down the Taft Avenue then to the Tayuman Road, in which the Department of Health (DOH) was situated.
The speakers representing DOH’s Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau (HPDPB) delivered a lecture entitled “Introduction to the Philippine Health Situation and the Department of Health”. Such lecture provided us an overview of the Philippine health situation, including various issues and concerns affecting local, national and global health, as well as a brief overview of the DOH in the context of the national health system.
I was overwhelmed with the speakers talking about health statistics over and over again, and I was quite disappointed when they honestly told us the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 could never be fulfilled. I was also appalled to see the DOH framework or organizational structure, which is very susceptible to corruption and service delays.
By 1PM, we left UPCM and traveled to Rizal. After eating snacks and settling down, Dr. Edelina Dela Paz introduced the participants and faculty facilitators and gathered the participants’ expectations. Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a retired faculty member of the UPCM and also the owner of the Bahay Silungan, gave the house rules. The participants were also divided into five groups for doing the recap and for solidarity night performance.
After dinner, we watched two short movies. The first one was Limang Libo, which narrates how the poor were ready to do whatever it takes just to have a ready cash payment for their beloved ones who were at the brink of death. On the other hand, Krusada: Ospital provided a brief overview of the Philippine Health Situation and had put more emphasis on the effects of privatization and medical insurances to common people.
I was assigned to sleep at the Men’s Dormitory. I wished to stay at the Ladies’ House, but I can’t, because everything might turn awkward. My first night in Morong was intimately quiet, and I spent the entire evening relishing the undertones of nature.