Navigating Health Financing Challenges with Bayang Malusog: Insights from Quezon and Aklan

On July 18, 2024, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) held its second Bayang Malusog Community of Practice (CoP) session. This event focused on sharing good practices and finding innovative solutions for financial sustainability within Universal Health Care (UHC) implementation. 

During the two-hour session, Dr. Kristine Villaseñor, the Provincial Health Officer of Quezon Province, shared how they have integrated financial management into their system as a Primary Care Provider Network (PCPN) sandbox site of the Department of Health (DOH). J-Lorenz Dionisio, UHC Focal Person for Aklan, talked about their governance model for managing the Special Health Fund. Aklan is one of the four Health Care Provider Network (HCPN) demonstration sites of DOH, alongside Benguet, Laguna, and Sarangani.

Quezon’s Financial Integration and Challenges

In Quezon, the journey towards effective health financing has been marked by both progress and hurdles. Dr. Villaseñor highlighted the opening of their Special Health Fund (SHF) Depository account as a key achievement. This step, led by the UHC Coordinator and the Provincial DOH Office (PDOHO), ensures that funds are properly managed and allocated. One of their notable practices is the collaboration between the Planning and Research Unit and other provincial units, which has been crucial in maintaining compliance with health policies.

Mayors or their representatives are active members of the Provincial Health Board (PHB), which strengthens the governance structure. Additionally, the Konsulta Operational Management Group has been working hard to intensify the Konsulta program. Despite these efforts, challenges remain. The primary source of the SHF is the Konsulta frontload, supplemented by funding from DOH and various tranches. However, frequent system downtimes, inadequate hardware, and slow internet have hindered progress. Monitoring the Konsulta program has also been difficult.

To address these issues, Quezon plans to continue the Konsulta Network Sandbox and develop, an online platform for better health service management. They are also working on guidelines for the allocation and utilization of funds within the SHF.

Aklan’s District Health System and Governance Model

Meanwhile, Aklan’s approach to health financing is centered around the establishment of a functional Aklan District Health System. J-Lorenz Dionisio explained their goal of creating six District Health Systems (DHS) to streamline healthcare delivery and improve access to services.  

The organization of these DHS and their respective management teams is ongoing. Aklan has been drafting a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for provincial and municipal collaboration, including a policy on sharing resources. They are expanding their Management Support Unit (MSU) to support district operations and have been hiring additional accountants and district health managers.

The MSU assists the Provincial Health Office of Aklan implement the updated health care Konsulta package for the province having been selected as an HCPN demonstration site. They are also working on a draft manual for the HCPN referral system to ensure responsiveness within each district.

The Provincial Governor convenes Aklan’s expanded PHB regularly, with all the mayors, Provincial and Municipal Health Officers present or represented. ZFF’s Provincial and Municipal Leadership and Governance Programs assisted the local government units to align with the #oneAklan vision for health.

Collaborative Efforts and Future Directions

Both Quezon and Aklan are navigating the complexities of health financing with determination and innovative solutions. Through the Bayang Malusog CoP virtual sessions and the Bayang Malusog Exchange (BMEx) online platform, accessible at, they continue to share insights and strategies, supporting each other in their journey towards achieving their UHC goals.

Dr. Kathrine Flores of the DOH – Bureau of Local Health Systems Development said, “It is important for us to document this journey and share experiences with each other so that we know what we can replicate to our locality.” Alongside Quezon and Aklan are Apayao, Baguio City, Benguet, Biliran, La Union, Laguna, Northern Samar comprising the first batch of the Bayang Malusog CoP. The next virtual session is in September.

Youth Leaders and Officials Unite to Combat Adolescent Pregnancy in San Jose de Buan, Samar

From July 17 to 19, barangay officials and youth leaders from Barangays Babaclayon, Can-aponte, Poblacion 1, and Poblacion 4 of the Municipality of San Jose de Buan, Samar gathered to address a growing concern: adolescent pregnancy. They took part in the Barangay Expanded Youth Leadership and Governance Program (BEYLGP), focusing on the Behavior-Centered Design method to tackle this issue head-on.

The BEYLGP, led by the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), under the Joint Programme on Accelerating the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy in Southern Leyte and Samar (JPARAP), aims to equip community leaders with the tools and knowledge needed to combat adolescent pregnancy effectively.

San Jose de Buan has seen 19 cases of adolescent pregnancies in the latest quarter of 2024. Over three days, participants learned to implement campaigns and initiatives tailored to their community’s needs, emphasizing teamwork and support for adolescents.

“By equipping our youth leaders and barangay officials with the right tools and knowledge, we aim to empower them to take proactive steps in reducing adolescent pregnancies,” said Dr. Phoebe Dela Cruz, Municipal Health Officer. “Our goal is to foster a culture of health and awareness that will benefit the entire community.”

Stories of Change and Determination

During the training, 24-year-old Barangay Chairperson Jimar Mañozo from Can-aponte shared his journey. Moving from a rural area to a city for education, he faced bullying and discrimination, shaping his resolve to prepare his young constituents for future challenges.

Beatrice Ebias, Chairperson of the Committee on Health in Can-aponte, also shared her story. Pregnant at 15, she once thought this was her destiny, a fate later shared by her eldest daughter. The BEYLGP training changed her perspective, and now she is determined to prevent adolescent pregnancies in her barangay. “Now that I know this is not normal, I am determined to curb this problem,” Beatrice said. 

Barangay Chairperson Jovito Rebato of Babaclayon reflected on his past mistakes. His strict approach to his adolescent daughter, who became a young mother, created a chasm between them. The BEYLGP training made him realize the need for empathy and support. He pledged to combat adolescent pregnancies with renewed purpose, aiming to create a more supportive environment for the youth in his barangay.

Inspiring Youth Leaders

Karen Pacios, a youth leader from Babaclayon, came out of the training inspired to make a difference. Seeing the struggles in her barangay, she pledged to share her knowledge and advocate for better support systems for adolescents. “I vow to end this vicious cycle in our poor communities,” Karen declared.

Keith Kelvin Rapatan, Supreme Student Government President from Poblacion 1, also committed to guiding his peers away from premature sexual activities. “Together, we can navigate the challenges of adolescence and build a future we can all be proud of,” he said, exemplifying true leadership and empathy.

The BEYLGP initiative is expected to play a crucial role in reversing the trend of rising adolescent pregnancies in San Jose de Buan and serve as a model for other communities facing similar challenges. With ongoing support and monitoring, the program aims to achieve sustainable results and create a better future for the youth.

Provincial Efforts for Nutrition: Pook Malusog Community of Practice Insights

Provincial officers from Northern Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, Basilan, and Sarangani shared their strategies for improving health and nutrition, offering valuable insights for other provinces to consider. These were presented during the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF)’s first Pook Malusog Community of Practice (CoP) in Nutrition last June 26, 2024 with the theme “Building One Community for Nutrition”.

Northern Samar: Building Capacity and Improving Facilities

Hannah Bautista shared the progress made since their involvement in ZFF programs. Initially, the province faced challenges with overstocked and expired malnutrition commodities, and inadequate facilities for treating severe acute malnutrition (SAM). They improved by building capacity for the Philippines Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (PIMAM), with help from UNICEF, establishing in-patient therapeutic care in two district hospitals, and strengthening referral systems. The province adopted a policy in March 2023 to designate specific facilities for malnutrition treatment, aiming for wider adoption by 2024.

Zamboanga del Norte: Innovating with Nutritional Solutions

Alein Khio shared their solution for children not qualifying for PIMAM support through the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) Malnutrition Reduction Program. This program, offering rice-mongo blends and curls, reached 3,200 individuals. Challenges remain with high production costs limiting reach and the need for better packaging of the rice-mongo blends and curls. DOST-FNRI’s commitment to help with packaging could broaden distribution. The province established a food processing plant, ensuring continuity of nutrition interventions despite administrative changes.

Basilan: Establishing and Standardizing Nutrition Programs

Nadzwa Sabandal discussed starting their nutrition program with minimal resources. With ZFF’s support, they established a fully operational PNAO position and held an LGU Forum to encourage prioritization of nutrition programs. They aim to standardize incentives for Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) across barangays to ensure fair compensation and greater involvement.

Sarangani: Data-Driven Nutrition Management

Dr. Arvin Alejandro introduced their HCPN intervention—dealing with politics, collaboration, political will, and nurturing partnerships. They developed the Sarangani Health Information and Management System (SHIMS) for profiling the population’s nutritional status. This data-driven approach identifies community needs and monitors social determinants of health. The system, initially developed for free with Mahintana Foundation’s help, later enhanced by the province’s Information Technology team, offers a cost-effective solution compared to commercial options. They plan to establish a comprehensive healthcare network and improve connectivity for telehealth services.

The discussions and insights shared during the session highlight the diverse approaches these provinces are taking to enhance health and nutrition. Their experiences provide valuable lessons and inspiration for building healthier communities across the Philippines.

Empowering Barangays and Families for Better Nutrition: Learnings from Pook Malusog Municipal Sharings

Select municipalities representing Basilan, Samar, Northern Samar, Sarangani and Zamboanga del Norte presented their innovative strategies focused on collaboration, empowerment, and sustainability. The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) held the first Pook Malusog Community of Practice (CoP) in Nutrition last June 26, 2024, themed “Building One Community for Nutrition”.

Tipo-Tipo, Basilan: Collaborative Healthcare and Empowerment

Community Coordination and Co-ownership. Dr. Nur Khan Istarul explained their approach to healthcare. They believe in working closely with barangay officials, especially the barangay captain, to understand and meet the community’s specific needs. This helps them address the unique challenges of coastal, upland, and midland areas.

Empowering Barangay Health Workers (BHWs).  By collaborating with barangays, they ensure that every sitio has a BHW. They increased the number of BHWs from 70 in 2023 to 135 in 2024. Additionally, they secured more support, raising BHWs’ monthly stipend from 2,000 to 4,000 pesos.

Skill Training and Cooperatives. They plan to train BHWs in additional skills like baking and sewing through TESDA, providing them with extra income opportunities. They also aim to set up a cooperative for malnourished families, buying their agricultural produce to ensure a steady supply of fresh, nutritious food.

Partnerships for Clean Water. Partnering with other NGOs, like the Manila Water Foundation, has helped them improve access to clean water, which is essential for good nutrition.

Pagsanghan, Samar: Comprehensive Early Childhood Nutrition Programs

Stunting Rehabilitation Project. Jovelle Royandoyan shared their approach to early childhood nutrition. They run the Hangkop stunting rehabilitation project, which provides resources like rice and toys to undernourished children through a voucher system.

Dietary Supplementation Program. Another program, Sakto ngan Epektibo nga Dietary (SED) Supplementation Program, ensures children receive essential dietary supplements.

Integrated Nutrition Action Program. They also have the Pagsanghan Integrated Nutrition Action Program for the First 1,000 Days of Life, focusing on the critical early childhood development period.

Collaborative Partnerships. By partnering with national government agencies and academic institutions, they ensure a well-rounded approach to tackling childhood malnutrition.

Bobon, Northern Samar: Overcoming Challenges through Community Engagement

Multi-Sectoral Approach. Natividad Lao talked about their progress since joining UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program from 2016 to 2019. Initially, nutrition was not a major focus, but the introduction of ZFF’s Municipal Nutrition Governance Program in 2021 changed this. Training sessions stressed the importance of involving the whole community, not just Nutrition Action Officers (NAOs).

Funding and Resource Mobilization. They faced funding challenges in rolling out the program to all barangays, but with help from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), they managed to secure the necessary resources.

Functional Nutrition Councils. Now, all 18 barangays have functional Barangay Nutrition Councils (BNCs) and dedicated nutrition budgets. Community involvement in feeding programs has led to impressive results, with average coverage data reaching 72.1% to 82.1% in 2023.

Kiamba, Sarangani: Community-Driven Development and Sustainability

Community Empowerment. Ronilyne Moneva presented the Kiamba Cares A+++ project, which renewed their focus on nutrition. They prioritize community-driven development, creating BNCs through capacity-building workshops on financial management, Philippines Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (PIMAM) program implementation, and integrating local culture.

Indigenous People’s Projects. They also address the unique needs of Indigenous People (IP) communities through specific projects like the IP Barangay Nutrition Gulayan Projects.

Strengthening Nutrition Councils. Strengthening BNCs and forming Municipal Nutrition Action Plans ensures long-term impact.

Partnerships for Resources. Partnerships with organizations like the Seaoil Foundation provide valuable resources for food security and nutrition initiatives.

Brgy. Manil, Leon Postigo, Zamboanga del Norte: Sustaining Nutrition and Health Initiatives

Training and Knowledge Sharing. Melgian Saquilan discussed the steps their barangay has made in improving nutrition and well-being. Training in programs like Barangay Leadership for Nutrition and Development (BL4ND) has equipped them with the knowledge and tools to address nutritional needs, especially for children and pregnant mothers.

Backyard Gardening and Food Security. Despite challenges like El Niño and limited water supply, they remain committed to ensuring access to fresh and nutritious food. They implemented a barangay ordinance promoting backyard gardening, resulting in 90% of households having their own gardens.

Prenatal Care Services. They also provide comprehensive prenatal care services through the Prenatal sa Martes, Pakan on ang Buntis program, offering regular checkups, immunizations, and counseling.

The stories shared by these municipalities showcase the power of teamwork and innovative thinking in addressing health and nutrition challenges. By empowering community health workers, forming strong partnerships, and implementing sustainable programs, these areas are creating healthier futures for their residents. As they continue their work, the lessons learned and the successes achieved serve as an inspiration for other communities striving to improve their own health and nutrition outcomes.

Dr. Exuperia Sabalberino Gives Back, Exemplifies Leadership in Action

Eastern Visayas, known for its resilience in the face of significant health inequities, is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. Three of its six provinces rank among the top 20 poorest in the country. The region’s challenging geography, with numerous island municipalities and mountainous areas, poses logistical challenges for healthcare delivery. Additionally, peace and order issues further hinder access to health services.

Dr. Exuperia Sabalberino’s journey to leadership in public health mirrors her region and is a testament to her commitment and resilience. Born and raised in Eastern Samar, she witnessed the lack of reliable public healthcare firsthand. These experiences inspired her to give back to her community, leading her to a career in a district hospital in Eastern Samar and later training in pathology at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Manila. Her involvement with a public health NGO, working on projects such as blindness eradication and medical missions, ignited her passion for public health and set her on a leadership path.

Returning to Eastern Visayas in 1996, Dr. Sabalberino took on various roles at the Department of Health (DOH), handling programs like disease prevention and control, voluntary blood donation and local health systems development, among others. By 2020, she was promoted to  DOH-Eastern Visayas Regional Director, a role she embraced with a vision to improve health outcomes in the region.

Strategic Initiatives and Achievements

The Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, Republic Act No. 11223, aims to provide every Filipino with affordable health services. However, UHC implementation varies across regions due to diverse healthcare needs, resource capabilities, and differences in government leadership. In Eastern Visayas, the focus has been on addressing these unique challenges through strategic health financing and strengthening local health systems.

Dr. Sabalberino’s approach to implementing UHC involves fostering collaboration among local government units (LGUs), healthcare workers, and various stakeholders. She says, “”I realized early on that we need help in accelerating the implementation of UHC  in the region. We asked various stakeholders for help because we know our limitations.”

Health financing, a critical aspect of UHC implementation, is primarily facilitated through the Special Health Fund (SHF). The SHF consolidates resources at the provincial and city levels, dedicated to financing various health services. Efforts have been made to align policies and improve collaboration with entities like PhilHealth, the Department of Health (DOH), DILG and the Commission on Audit (COA), ensuring healthcare delivery’s sustainability, equity, and effectiveness.

Leadership development programs, supported by the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), have significantly contributed to deepening regional leaders’ accountability and ownership. These programs have also provided valuable training to local health leaders, enhancing their ability to address health challenges in their respective areas.

Members of the Regional UHC Coordinating Team (RUCT) completed training under the Bayang Malusog Regional Leadership Development Program (LDP). This program focuses on deepening accountability and ownership of regional leaders in UHC implementation. Training modules cover practicum experience, leadership acts, and lessons in implementing UHC and nutrition projects and programs.

The Strategic Dialogue on UHC Implementation and Health Financing Implications for Enhanced Health Service Delivery focused on the practical implementation of the UHC Law. Participants discussed their roles in addressing challenges, high-impact interventions, and the status of policy/COA guidelines on the SHF. Theory U and the Bridging Leadership Framework have been instrumental in processing and implementing these strategies.

Community-based initiatives, a cornerstone of UHC implementation, have been championed to address specific regional needs. For instance, in mountainous areas with protein deficiency, interventions included high-protein crop cultivation and free-range chicken farming, ensuring strategies fit the unique challenges of different communities.

Adaptive leadership and conflict management are essential aspects of Dr. Sabalberino’s strategy. Training sessions managing conflicts, team dynamics, and applying the adaptive leadership toolkit to mobilize people and resources helped leaders develop strategies to address health challenges effectively.

“I am so thankful, especially for the governance program for our health leaders. It’s really helping us a lot. It allowed our health leaders to appreciate and be more aware of the health challenges in their respective areas,” Dr. Sabalberino states.

Impact of UHC in Eastern Visayas

Under Dr. Sabalberino’s transformative leadership, UHC implementation in Eastern Visayas has brought significant changes. By upgrading health facilities and establishing specialty centers, the region has witnessed a remarkable increase in accessibility to health services. Health indicators have shown a positive trend, with reductions in maternal and child mortality rates and better outcomes in nutrition and disease prevention programs.

Enhanced health financing through the SHF will ensure a more equitable distribution of resources, providing financial protection to those most in need. More robust local health systems have emerged, with leadership development and strategic dialogues making these systems more responsive and capable of addressing community-specific health challenges.

Looking Forward

Dr. Exuperia Sabalberino’s efforts have improved health outcomes in one of the Philippines’ most challenging regions but also set a benchmark for other regions striving to implement UHC. Her vision is a dream and a roadmap for a healthier, more equitable future for all Filipinos.

When asked about the legacy she wants to leave in Eastern Visayas, she muses, “I reflected on this. I asked, Lord, why did you put me in this situation, what do you want from me? I thought, if I can help improve health outcomes in the region and reduce health inequities, I will be very happy with that. To give opportunities and provide more access to health services, that will be a very good legacy for Eastern Visayas.”

Laguna Health Leaders Convene for Bayang Malusog Orientation on Health Care Provider Network

The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) facilitated the Bayang Malusog orientation on the Universal Health Care (UHC)-Health Care Provider Network (HCPN) for the Provincial Health Board (PHB) of Laguna on June 24, 2024. Opening the event, Laguna Governor Ramil Hernandez stressed how combining efforts from municipalities and national agencies can make the best use of resources and achieve health goals for the province.

Dr. Rene Bagamasbad, Provincial Health Officer II and Co-chair of the Laguna PHB, outlined the orientation’s objectives, focusing on the program’s benefits, the provincial health system, and the referral network. He also discussed the responsibilities of the PHB and other stakeholders.

Dr. Brittany Mandalihan from the Department of Health (DOH)-Region 4A shared the status of HCPN implementation by DOH, and PhilHealth’s role in formulating policies. She explained that Laguna was chosen as an HCPN demonstration site, alongside Aklan, Benguet, and Sarangani for its mature health system and active PHB. Mr. Richard Lee and Mr. Rene Fernandez from the Laguna Provincial Health Office (PHO) presented an overview of the province’s HCPN. They discussed the need for a resolution to formalize the network, involve private sectors, and address gaps in electronic medical records interoperability.

In the afternoon, Dr. Edwin Mercado elaborated on the PHB’s role in managing and implementing the HCPN program with PhilHealth and other stakeholders. He also led a session on planning the strategic direction for the Laguna HCPN, including setting timelines, defining success metrics, and planning future activities.

Dr. Bagamasbad concluded the orientation emphasizing the importance of collaboration and strategic planning for the successful implementation of UHC-HCPN. The session laid the groundwork for a more integrated and efficient healthcare delivery system in Laguna, ensuring accessible and quality healthcare for all Lagunenses. 

Municipal Leaders in Basilan Enhance Nutrition Governance Through Zuellig Family Foundation Training

The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) gathered mayors and municipal officers from five municipalities of Basilan—Al-Barka, Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Hadji Muhtamad, Tabuan Lasa, and Ungkaya Pukan—for the Municipal Nutrition Governance Program-Nutrition and Health Leadership for Resilience (MNGP-NutriHeaL) learning track last June 6-8, 2024. The training, which is the first module of a two-part series, aimed to deepen ownership and accountability for nutrition among municipal leaders. 

The event saw the attendance of Basilan Governor Hadjiman “Jim” Hataman-Salliman together with provincial officers on health and nutrition. The governor has been proactive in engaging the municipalities in nutrition efforts for Basilan prior to the activity, spearheading the Leaders for Nutrition Forum in 2023. His presence reinforced his commitment to enhancing health and nutrition outcomes across Basilan.

Explaining the reason why nutrition is important to the overall development of the province, Governor Jim said, “Mas maraming healthy na bata, mas maraming possibilities na magiging leader. ‘Yung quality ng constituents na Basileño, ‘yung kanilang contribution sa community, sa probinsiya natin, mas magiging maganda.” (More healthy children mean more possibilities for future leaders. The quality of our Basileño constituents and their contributions to the community and our province will greatly improve.)

This initiative is under the Basilan Assistance Program (BAP), which seeks to tackle the remaining nutrition and health challenges in the province by building on lessons from previous projects. BAP, set to run until the end of 2025, aligns with ZFF’s broader strategy of using prototyping and scaling-up frameworks to ensure sustainable interventions. This includes transferring knowledge to local government units (LGUs) and academic institutions and partnering with local non-government organizations (NGOs) to address social determinants of health.

Over the three days, participants engaged in various activities aimed at improving the health, food, and nutrition systems in their municipalities. They explored a leadership and change framework designed to guide improvements in these areas. Through in-depth analysis, the attendees identified the factors contributing to their current municipal realities and expressed their commitment to their mayor’s call to action.

One of the highlights of the training was the formulation of a shared vision for nutrition in their municipalities. The participants worked on identifying integration points for nutrition across various sectors and levels of governance. By the end of the module, they had created joint practicum action plans outlining priority actions and strategies to enhance their municipal health, food, and nutrition systems.

Mayor Moner Manisan of Tabuan Lasa stressed the need for proactive leadership in addressing nutrition issues. He shareed, “Kailangan ‘yung presensya ko, kailangan ako ‘yung frontliner dito. Dapat ngayon pa lang, pag planuhan na: ano ang gagawin natin, ano yung intervention ng LGU, lalong lalo na kaming mayor.” (My presence is needed, I have to be the frontliner here. Starting now, we should plan: what will we do, what interventions will the LGU implement, especially us mayors.

ZFF hopes that the knowledge and skills gained from this training will empower local leaders to drive significant improvements in their communities’ nutrition outcomes. The second module of the MNGP-NutriHeaL is anticipated to continue building on these foundations, offering further training, coaching, mentoring, and monitoring and evaluation to ensure long-term success.


Building One Community for Nutrition: Zuellig Family Foundation’s Pook Malusog Community of Practice in Nutrition

Themed “Building One Community for Nutrition”, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) gathered nutrition officers and leaders from Sarangani, Samar, Northern Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, and Basilan to the first Pook Malusog Community of Practice (CoP) in Nutrition last June 26, 2024.

A platform for the group to collaborate, share insights, and learn from each other’s experiences, the Pook Malusog CoP validates and affirms best practices, and opens partnerships to adapt and harmonize innovative interventions. Dr. Anthony Faraon, ZFF Deputy Executive Director, emphasized how the CoP helps foster partnerships to improve nutrition programs. He said, “Our CoP would be the venue of our continuing work and partnership. This is just the start. We hope to continue learning together and work on identifying and improving our nutritionally-at-risk, pregnant women, and low-birth weight infants. Ang ating pagsasama-sama will continue for years.” (Our collaboration will continue on for years.)

Lou Ann Alterado, Nutrition Project Manager of ZFF, stressed the CoP objective further: “Our one goal is to reduce stunting and improve nutrition. Iba-iba ang approach natin dahil iba-iba ang context, pero gusto natin matuto sa ibang lugar para ma-apply sa iba pang lugar.” (Each region has a different approach due to varying contexts, but we aim to learn from each other to apply strategies across different areas.) 

The group identified themes or topics for the CoP. Common starting points include the significance of institutional support, proactivity of Local Chief Executives in championing nutrition, and social norms and behaviors affecting health and nutrition. In the afternoon, the group convened for the provincial and municipal sharing of strategies and approaches.

Provincial Sharing: Provincial Approaches to Enhancing Health and Nutrition

Hannah Bautista of Northern Samar shared their training of Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS), and establishment of referral systems and in-patient therapeutic care facilities, contributing to the significant decline of stunting rates in the province. Alien Khio of Zamboanga del Norte talked about their partnership with the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) for the establishment of a food processing plant to produce nutritious foods and snacks. Nadzwa Sabandal of Basilan narrated their journey from having no resources to creating a comprehensive nutrition program, which includes standardized incentives for BNS. Dr. Arvin Alejandro of Sarangani, presenting via Zoom, introduced the Sarangani Health Information and Management System for tracking nutritional status and other health determinants.

Municipal Sharing: Strengthening Engagement with Barangays and Families in Health and Nutrition Programs

Dr. Nur Khan Istarul of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, Jovelle Royandoyan of Pagsanghan, Samar, Natividad Lao of Bobon, Northern Samar, Ronilyne Moneva of Kiamba, Sarangani, and Melgian Saquilan of Leon Postigo, Zamboanga del Norte represented their respective municipalities in the municipal sharing. Tipo-Tipo focused on co-ownership with local officials and Barangay Health Workers (BHWs). Pagsanghan showcased the “Hangkop” (Hug) stunting rehabilitation project and other early childhood nutrition programs. Bobon highlighted a multi-sectoral approach leading to functional Barangay Nutrition Committees. Kiamba’s Kiamba Cares project emphasized community empowerment, partnerships for nutrition financing, and tailored initiatives for Indigenous People communities. Leon Postigo promoted backyard gardening, prenatal care, and other community-driven programs, contributing to improved nutrition outcomes.

Dr. Jane Jaug of the Department of Health-Zamboanga del Norte, shared her reflection, noting good leadership as key to improved nutrition outcomes in the represented provinces and municipalities. She said, “Tuloy-tuloy lang ang pangarap, lalo na may good governance.” (Keep pursuing your dreams, especially when there is good governance.)

One Community for Nutrition: the Pook Malusog Community of Practice Facebook Group

In defining their engagement under the CoP, the group agreed to maintain a Facebook group page where they can exchange ideas, strategies, and perspectives in improving their nutrition program implementation. Dr. Joyce Ann Viar, ZFF Nutrition Portfolio Director, shared in closing, “This is not yet the end, but the beginning. CoP is not just a platform to exchange ideas and strategies, but part of ZFF’s commitment to continue the assistance in the provinces.”

Transforming Public Health: Governors and Health Officers Convene at Roberto R. Romulo Fellowship 2 for Universal Health Care

On May 9-10, 2024, the second module of the Roberto R. Romulo (RRR) Fellowship for Public Health Leadership and Governance took place at Bayview Park Hotel Manila. This event brought together governors and provincial health officers from Aklan, Dinagat Islands, Davao de Oro, and Kalinga. The fellowship is an ongoing initiative aimed at fostering transformative leadership in public health, with a strong focus on innovative and inclusive strategies to achieve Universal Health Care (UHC).

Representing the four provinces in the event were Aklan Governor Jose Enrique Miraflores and Dr. Leo Magallanes Ismael, Dinagat Islands Governor Nilo Demerey Jr. and Dr. Vinjohan S. Manlapaz, Davao de Oro Governor Dorothy Gonzaga and Dr. Antonio P. Ybiernas Jr., and Kalinga Governor James Edduba and Dr. Edward Tandingan.

During the event, participants shared their successes and addressed the challenges they face in their respective provinces. Prof. Ernesto D. Garilao, Chairman of ZFF, highlighted the importance of governors having a comprehensive understanding of the health system and data. “Health is an investment, and returns should be measured through better health indicators,” he stated.

The second day of the module focused on crafting innovations and developing communication strategies for UHC implementation. As a synthesis, Prof. Garilao reviewed the Bridging Leadership framework, integrating the provincial narratives of the fellows and encouraged them to foster cooperation, joint action, and co-ownership among stakeholders for a collaborative response to health challenges. “Analysis of data points, insighting, and bringing different sectors together are all imperative,” Prof. Garilao emphasized, underscoring the importance of these elements in effective public health leadership. 

The RRR Fellowship Program, established in memory of Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF)’s founding chair, is a collaborative effort with the University of the Philippines College of Public Health and the National College of Public Administration and Governance. It aims to equip public health leaders with the skills needed to tackle local and national health challenges, fostering champions of UHC.

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