BIRTHING AND NURTURING A COMMUNITY-MANAGED HEALTH CARE PROGRAM
The Community Health Program for Indigenous Peoples (CHCIP) was conceived and is growing well in the villages of Kapangan, Benguet.
Every second and third Mondays of the month, villagers in Sitios Ubod and Apunan come to the Abong mini-clinic for Alternative Health Care treatment sessions.
Three to five trained village health workers render services like acupuncture, acupressure, massage, moxibustion and ventosa. Locally prepared herbal medicines which are prepared every first and last Mondays of the month would also be dispensed. This includes Salamagi-Laya-Kalamansi (SLK) for cough syrup; Bawang-Laya-Sili (BLS) ointment for joint and muscle pains; Ginger Tea for general relief of digestive and respiratory problems. This brings health care much closer to the villagers and spares them from going to the barangay health clinic at the center of the barangay which is quite far and drug-oriented.
Scheduled immunization and weighing of children are also done at the Abong. Cases which the Abong cannot handle are referred to the barangay health clinic or to hospitals located at the town center or in La Trinidad and Baguio City.
Members of the Ubod-Apunan Association for Healthy Living (UBAPAS) built the Abong in 2001. For 13 years now, UBAPAS continues to run a community-managed health program and maintain the services in Abong. In 2005, UBAPAS members assisted the villagers of Sitio Bileng and Sitio Ampongot set up their own community health program. This also led to the formation of the people’s organizations DAYUKONG in Bileng and LAMPADA in Ampongot. In 2009, SUPACONA was also formed in Copias and YENG-AO in Namon-ao in Barangay Gadang with a similar program. Barangay Gadang lies near the boundary of Kapangan and La Union. To reach the villages, one has to cross grasslands and rivers that are risky during rainy seasons.
The CHCIP evolved from the earlier Maternal and Infant Care for Indigenous Peoples (MICIP) program which was borne out of the research of Kerren Hudland, an American volunteer. The research done in 1998 showed significant cases of maternal and infant deaths due to the absence of appropriate health care. Another volunteer, Ms Robin Lim, an American-Filipina nurse who also promotes traditional birth practice assisted Shontoug Foundation in developing the MICIP. This was then coordinated with the Kapangan Municipal Health Officer who recommended the communities as pilot areas for project implementation. The program was then discussed with the Barangay Health Worker Ms Romana Ciriaco, Barangay Captain Sanio Coilan and Midwife Gemma Vendiola. After the Barangay Council formally accepted the program, a house to house survey was then conducted. The survey revealed how the lack of health personnel and lack of basic health knowledge and skills contributed to the health situation in the community. This inspired the community to take action on their situation. Training needs analysis done and an Annual Action Plan was crafted which was implemented by mid-2000.
With a three-year time frame, series of capability building activities including trainings on relevant traditional, alternative and modern medicine were undertaken by women in the community. To ensure project sustainability, organizational development trainings were also conducted. Health professionals from the Department of Health, Saint Louis University and Private Health Practitioners were tapped to provide the health trainings. The Rural Health Unit and the Barangay Health Station were constantly informed of the activities and were fully supportive. Community meetings were conducted for program orientation, trainings and monitoring. Initially, the program prioritized the health concerns of mothers and children. It was seen however that the whole community was actually benefitting from the program.
With funding assistance from the Cordillera Network of Development NGOs and POs (CORDNET) and the WE 21 of Japan, CHCIP was replicated in the communities of Bileng and Ampongot. This time, the UBAPAS took the lead from initiation, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. They confidently transferred the skills and knowledge they have gained and the lessons they have learned which inspired the formation DAYUKONG and LAMPADA. DAYUKONG in turn assisted the formation of SUPACONA and YENG-AO people’s organizations and the establishment of the CHCIP in their respective villages.