Here's what we've learned and done so far, as told through photos.
The Tagbanua reside in the outlying islands of Culion access to basic services is scarce. They migrated here when the main island became a leper colony in 1904. This distance from the main town is precisely one of the major barriers in the Tagbanua’s access to health care, as surmised from our research.
The lack of access to preventive care has shown to have an impact on maternal and child health as well as on the overall health characteristics of the community. Our study also showed that the most common health problems here consist of preventable illnesses prevalent in low-income communities. These include respiratory ailments, infections and malnutrition.
It is fortunate that there is a comprehensive set of government-provided health programs in the Culion municipality. Present is a General Hospital where even neighbouring municipalities go for treatment. There is also a Rural Health Unit whose function is to extend free medical services outward to Culion’s entire population. National public health programs are also in operation in Culion and cover the population of the 3 islands. One is Philhealth which is an insurance program hich provides health coverage to members. The other is the Conditional Cash Transfer Program which integrates compulsory health actions, such as prenatal consultation and vaccinations, by its members in order for them to receive their regular cash assistance. Nevertheless, while the public health portfolio is extensive, challenges still exist in providing these effectively to the Tagbanua population. These include: the lack of budget, human resources, medical supplies and facilities accessible to the remote islands; communication barriers in dealing with the Tagbanua; limitations in the skills of community health workers; and inconsistencies in personal records required in accessing benefits and coverage.
Project LUSOG's first response through education and bridging the demand and supply of health services
Based on these findings, we have begun with our first response through Project LUSOG. With the main objective of breaking down the barriers to the indigenous families’ effective demand for health, we are piloting Project LUSOG in the 3 communities covered in our research. Our immediate focus is two-pronged: 1) health education, and 2) bridging the gap between the existing supply of health services and the Tagbanua’s demand for health care.
The health education component aims to promote proactive health-seeking behaviour. It can also bridge the gap in the Tagbanua's understanding of available health services in the area. Alongside is the endeavour to bring the service providers and the Tagbanua closer to each other and encourage culturally-sensitive approaches within the health system.
For the last quarter of 2016, we’ve designed a line-up of activities that will put these goals into action. Last October, we held our Bayanihan sa Kalusugan Series which is a string of bridging sessions with the various stakeholders in the Tagbanua’s health. These dialogues also use our research findings to help deepen the various groups’ understanding of the Tagbanua’s health situation.
The LUSOG Days aim to address the specific hurdles in both access and delivery of health services: lack of health care information and awareness of available services among the Tagbanua, communication barriers between them and the service providers and incomplete records that hinder health coverage.