The fact that I would be away again from my family bolted into my head the moment I woke up. I wondered if there was a littlest reason for me to leave, but then I threw all the remaining pretexts I had towards the trash bin.
My first morning in Morong, Rizal was surprisingly chilly, giving me a very hard time to get up. I smelled my breath as the worst in my entire life; to top that was a straight line of dried saliva plaguing its host’s beloved face. The feeling was horrifying, as well embarrassing, because I had to keep up with my behavior every time, because I was dwelling in a room for boys.
As I jumped towards the shower room, the water almost killed me as it dropped my temperature down. Even singing my most favorite song I heard last night through the radio couldn’t hide the soft brrrrr I uttered every time the soap hit my skin.
After eating our delicious breakfast, I quickly drove my feet upstairs, to the seminar room. Group 1 gave a short recap of what we did the preceding day, including attending a lecture at the Department of Health. Afterwards, our ears and eyes opened to hear and watch their funny cheer.
The first one to deliver the almost two-hour talk was Dr. Ramon Paterno, a faculty of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine. His presentations were entitled “Global Health Situation” and “Philippine Health Situation.”
In his Powerpoint slides, he was able to “define what global health was and describe the global health situation, trends and major issues.” He also emphasized the importance of health equity, which was defined as “the absence of differences in health that are not only unnecessary and avoidable, but also unfair and unjust” (Whitehead, n.d.)
Right in the middle of the discussion, he showed us a video by Rosling, entitled 200 Years that Changed the World. The presenter stressed that before 1810, all countries, including Great Britain and the United States, were in the sick and poor quadrant. However, it was important to note that during the 19th century, the first world countries’ income improvement had also improved the state of health among their people, and it was evident even during the first wave of the Industrial Revolution. Moreover, despite the good news that such created a great, positive impact to public health, public health practitioners cite differences in incomes between states, regions, and countries could be an indicator of health inequity, as people in poor areas would always find a hard time getting proper medical attention and much worse, the medicines to prolong their lives, because such services are costly and cannot be afforded by most of the sick marginalized.
The worst thing that was happening nowadays, as he stressed, was that financial institutions such as the World Bank, influences formulation of health policies, leading to privatization of public hospitals and creation of companies offering health insurances. This, moreover, heavies the burden of poor Filipinos.
He also discussed to us the current Philippine Health Situation. Health as a most basic right was emphasized by the 1987 Philippine Constitution, but it seemed to be violated by those in government position through the legislation and execution of bogus programs, adding to the sad fact that 6 out of 10 Filipinos die without medical assistance or without even seeing a doctor. Poor Filipinos also tend to forego consultation in order to be able to buy medicines and because, also, of non-availability of drugs and long distance of health facilities from their homes.
Dr. Buching ended up his talk by equating the Philippine Health human resource crisis to global health human resource crisis and by restating the issues that he aforementioned.
Dr. Gene Nisperos stirred up the atmosphere of supposedly hungry people (in my perspective) as he introduced his lecture, The Socio-Economic-Political Framework and How It Affects People’s Health, with a nerve-breaking, yet clever and funny icebreaker. The challenge was that he will give us a group of words written in metacards, and we will arrange them such that we can make a meaningful story out of them. Hilarity ensued as my group chose me to present our (or so to speak, my) story in front of everyone. What happened next? My own graceful humiliation.
Anyway, in Dr. Gene’s talk, he told us how global and Philippine politics intervene with the state of public health in our country. For instance, the Philippine Health system is patterned after that from the US (specialty-oriented, hospital-based, higher wage for private practice and even the medical education curriculum). In terms of economic aspect, the three principles (liberalization, deregulation & privatization) being promoted by World Bank, International Monetary Fund & World Trade Organization (the three evil institutions) led to privatization of hospitals and health services and to monopoly of health care services.
The social roots of the current state of public health was also tackled, as the Universal Health Coverage (aka social health insurance) promoted AGAIN by the World Bank (really record-breaking, huh) resulted to establishment of private companies jeopardizing the rights of common people to health. Moreover, we can deduce that the people’s mindset nowadays towards medicine is curative rather than preventive & is doctor-centric.
He also discussed how culture and value systems affect one’s perspective towards achieving good health. For example, the Church influences us to decide whether an action is moral or not. The said institution (especially the Roman Catholic) is still against the Reproductive Health Law, which, on the negative side, will delay the prevention of the spread of HIV-AIDS and other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), of the increasing mortality rate of pregnant women, and ultimately, of poverty.
The afternoon session commenced as soon as we finished eating our lunch. This time, the first speaker was Dr. Anthony Cordero, one of indeed wittiest doctors around. His lecture was entitled The Primary Health Care and Rights Based Approach to Health, in which he allowed our minds to review the basic tenets of Primary Health Care and reiterate its relevance. He asserted that everyone, especially health professionals, must believe in the principles clearly indicated in the Alma Ata Declaration, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and emerged during the International Conference on Primary Health Care held at Alma Ata, Union Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in September 6-12, 1978. Moreover, he defined Primary Health Care as “a value system or approach rooted to Alma Ata Declaration” and “a type of medical care one may receive by first point of contact”. Lastly, Doc Ants devoted the last minute for his lecture, remarking that health is multifactorial.
The next part, Analyzing Why We Cannot Go beyond Self and Family: Building the Concept of Nationhood was facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Paterno, Doc Buching’s wife, instead of Dr. Michael Tan who did not make it to the event. In her short session, we were able to analyze the historical roots of our subservience to foreign interests and dictates. It was appalling to know too, that our concept of nationalism affects how we view health as a fundamental right.
Covering up again for Dr. Tan’s absence, Doc Ants assumed the role of the speaker for the presentation entitled, Gender, Culture & Sexuality. In such lecture, Doc Ants defined current concepts on gender and sexuality, including reproductive health and promoted the cultural and gender sensitivity in development work.
After eating dinner, we climbed back upstairs again to watch the film, Inside Job, which pinpoints the key explanations behind the great US recession by mid-2007 and its effects to the global economy. After which, before sleeping in the Men’s Dormitory, I had a short laugh trip with the boys, so I concluded that my second day in Morong was really blissful and interactive.
Photo Credits to Ms. Pholyn Balahadia, GHC student facilitator.