The answer may be less obvious than it seems. For many indigenous families, there is more to it than paying for transport, medicine, and fees. Often, going to the doctor could also mean pressing pause on labouring for the day’s sustenance, taking the risk of traveling across waters or mountains, looking for a place where the patient’s companions can spend the night, and so forth. A host of physical and social hurdles indeed compound on the material cost of seeking health care.
Global and local reports point to the lower social outcomes, including that of health, of indigenous populations compared to non-indigenous populations or national averages.[i] This is echoed in a newly released study on indigenous peoples health in 23 countries.[ii] As importantly, this 2016 study also reports that the levels of disadvantage are different across countries and that the impact of social determinants on health varies according to each one’s socio-historical context. These determinants include education, livelihood and other aspects of daily living, as well as structural aspects such as socio-economic policies. These findings all the more point to the need for local studies and analysis that can help provide basis for formulation of policies and programs on indigenous health that are targeted and grounded.
Project LUSOG aims to do just that. It is a collaboration between Cartwheel International and Cartwheel Philippines and concretizes both organizations’ initiatives on health. The name stands for ‘Linking the UnderServed with Opportunities for Growth and Health’. Malusog also means healthy in the Filipino language. Project LUSOG takes off with a comprehensive study on the particular health situation of the Tagbanua of Culion as a start. It is to be the springboard for a nuanced and responsive approach to addressing health issues at the community level and engaging service providers and policymakers at the various levels of governance.
In Culion, Project LUSOG is now well into its first phase of research, covering the islands of Alulad, Cagait and Chindonan. Using lenses of different perspectives, the study involves various stakeholders – from the Tagbanua families themselves to the government and private providers of basic services. Through in-depth interviews with the service providers, we are learning a great deal about the intricacies of the local health system and the challenges in service delivery. At the same time, community-level interviews and household surveys are shedding light on the Tagbanua families’ daily realities and their barriers in accessing the care they need and deserve.
We are excited for where Project LUSOG can take us and, more importantly, our partner indigenous communities. We hope you join us in our journey too. Do check this space for more updates as Project LUSOG presses on.
United Nations, 2009. State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. New York: United Nations.
[ii] Anderson et al., 2016. Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Health (The Lancet-Lowitja Institute Global Collaboration): A Population Study. [online] The Lancet. Available at: http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(16)00345-7.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016].