By SARAH GELLOR. Originally published on ABS-CBN News.
Starting as a maternal health program of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, Merck-Sharp and Dome (MSD), Simulan Nating Gumawa-Stella Maria Della Strada (SINAG-SMDS), HL4M gave birth to local health councils for the barangays in the 3rd District of Quezon City. As Health Leaders for Mothers (HL4M) program wraps up, let us reminisce its journey and celebrate its success.
Going Beyond Disagreements in RH
During the 2010 election campaign of RH advocate Congressman Bolet Banal of the 3rd district of Quezon City, he organized a dialogue on the Reproductive Health bill (now a law) with the community members of Sta. Maria Della Strada in Barangay Pansol, Quezon City. After two hours of debating, they ended up with no unified position on the RH Bill. On the positive side, both agreed to help pregnant mothers acquire maternal healthcare services.
To ease the financial burdens of 600 expectant moms, Congressman Bolet Banal and the Sta. Maria Della Strada community funded their PhilHealth enrolment. Sadly, only 17% of the enrolees utilized their PhilHealth services during their pregnancy. The challenge was to change the health-seeking behaviour of mothers.
HL4M: Empowering Health Leaders for Mothers
The basic premise of the three-year program that started in 2012 was to train barangay health workers on leadership and communication skills. Since they have the capacity to directly engage with moms, their role was to scout pregnant mothers and encourage them to undergo pre-natal checkups and give birth in facilities.
To develop their competencies, HL4M first focused on building their confidence, personal awareness, skills, attitude, competency and leadership. Afterwards, they were trained with the basics of maternal care.
Aside from the monetary compensation, they gained a sense of duty. For Araceli Quibete, a health volunteer from Barangay Old Balara, “malaking bagay ang makatulong at tumulong, lalo na sa mga baguhang maging nanay. Kaming mga volunteer health leader ay malaking tulong para sa aming komunidad…”
Behavioral Change of Mothers
Through the diligence of barangay health leaders, pregnant mothers were able to attend Buntis Tipanans and avail free check-ups, consultation, medicines as well as primers, kits and localized birth plans in preparation of their delivery. To monitor their pre-natal check-ups, they were given Buntis ID cards signed by health centers every check-up.
Through HL4M, a total of 18,554 women were profiled. 11,943 women were of reproductive age while 6,611 women were pregnant. From the total number of pregnant women profiled, 81% or 5,366 completed their prenatal checkups.
A 21-year-old mother who was 5 months pregnant expressed her appreciation for HL4M and the SINAG center: “The place is nice and spacious, and the BHW (barangay health workers) are very warm and accommodating… A plus to the Buntis Tipanan is that we get free vitamins too.”
Change in System and Governance
One of HL4M’s notable accomplishments was the system of profiling and data integration with the 3rd District Health Office (DHO). Dr. Leticia De Guzman from DHO realized the importance of customer service through HL4M: “Hindi lang technical capacities ang tinuturo. Dapat pala attitude ang ituturo sa health leaders.”
HL4M also fostered the communication and coordination between barangay health workers and the District Health Office and paved the way for policy development. It also led to the recognition of the effectiveness in promoting health at the barangay level. To expand HL4M, the Barangay Health Management Council (BHMC) was conceptualized.
BHMC: Institutionalizing HL4M Gains through Governance
The Barangay Health Management Council is a barangay health governance committee that will identify, target, and promote programs to usher the barangay’s specific health needs, streamline data flow and simplify the referral system. It also saves funding by focusing the resources on the localities’ immediate needs.
Last July 3, 2014, a BHMC workshop was held with the barangay captains, health leaders and government officials where everyone agreed to the need for a BHMC. During the workshop, the 3rd District council and the city government expressed their support to the BHMC. In fact, Vice Mayor Joy informed the plan to include the BHMC as a part of the Seal of Good Housekeeping, stressing the importance of health governance in Quezon City: “At the end of the day our human resource is the most important asset of our city and we have to make sure that they are strong, productive and healthy.”
Today, there are three BHMCs in action through the barangay captains’ initiative of drafting a resolution, while others have shown interest in making one.
Public Participation in Health Development
Finally, HL4M showed how citizens can involve themselves to push for the health development at the grassroots level. Without the help of the Institute of Politics and Governance (IPG), the Ateneo Health Sciences Department, the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance, the 3rd District Health Office, and the Offices of Congressman Bolet Banal, Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, Councilor Daza, the barangays and the health leaders, HL4M would not have been a success.