Seminar focuses on role of LGUs as public health champions

By PAULA BRITTA C. APINES. Originally published on Rappler.

Leadership program for health development tackles the role of good governance, public leadership and social innovations in the delivery of health services

MANILA, Philippines - Good governance, public leadership and social innovations – these were the themes of a three-day leadership program for health development that brought together 34 local government unit (LGU) officials from various cities and municipalities of Region VII, Mindanao and Nueva Ecija.

Held at the Quest Hotel and Conference Center in Cebu City on November 8 to 10, the program was entitled “LGU Champions of Good Governance for Health” and was organized by the Ateneo School of Government, in partnership with the Office of Senator Teofisto Guingona III, and the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.

“The primary aim of the event is to engage local government units in a conference towards local health improvement and local health board (LHB) development,” states Jess Lorenzo, the main facilitator of the event and Kaya Natin! Core Group Member.

Good Governance Solutions

The LHB serves as each LGUs' advisory committee on health budget proposals and allocations in accordance to the needs of their constituents. However, in a presentation back in June this year, DOH Undersecretary Dr. Teodoro Herbosa reported that in the Philippines, only about 10% of local health boards (LHBs) are functional as reported by DOH. This is why one of the thrusts of the program is LHB development.

The event defined the key to solving health issues as rooted in good governance, i.e., programs that are transparent, accountable and participative of its citizens.

“Health is a right and responsibility of everyone, and good health requires everyone to be involved,” says Dr. Marife Yap, Associate Dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. “It is very difficult," she adds, "because you cannot see the results right away…especially in the Philippines."

Among the speakers for the good governance and public health leadership themes were Mary Jane Ortega, former mayor of San Fernando La Union, Dr. Marife Yap, former Mayor Sonia Lorenzo (San Isidro, Nueva Ecija) and Galing Pook Winners Governor Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur) and Mayor Joselito Escutin (Dao, Capiz) who shared challenges and successes in raising the quality of health their respective hometowns.

Also present were Philippine College of Surgeons Regent Dr. Beda Espineda and PhilHealth’s Director for Region VII, Jenet Advincula who said she was glad to engage the officials in a discussion on spreading PhilHealth’s mission and benefits for their constituents.

Speakers during the final day focused on how to create innovative solutions, including opening up LGUs for possible partnerships.

Dr. Penny Robredo-Bundoc of Physicians for Peace and Karen Villanueva of Merck, Sharpe and Dohme shared experiences concerning projects for persons with disabilities.

Composed of mayors, councilors for health, municipal health officers, and other LHB representatives, the LGU participants in attendance were from Gapan, Nueva Ecija; Baclayon, Garcia Hernandez, Loon, Maribojoc, Talibon, Trinidad, Tubigon, and Ubay from Bohol; Alcoy, Barili, Consolacion and Mandaue City from Cebu; Bais City, Bindoy, Siaton from Negros Oriental; Albarka and Tipo-Tipo, from Basilan, and Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

The conference closed as it began, with Senator Guingona III highlighting the key elements of successful health programs in the local and national levels – through good governance, transparency, accountability, participation.

Guingona pointed out that if LGUs practice these three values, there would be meaningful delivery of services. "It doesn’t have to be very complicated, we just stick to these three words, live it, make it a reality, and then you are a Champion.”