Spanning three decades of advancing primary health care in Cebu and Bohol

The VPHCS traces its roots to two programs, the Training and Educational Assistance for Community Health (TEACH) and the Cebu Urban Poor Communities Primary Health Care Program or Operation Himsog (OH). TEACH set up community-based health programs in the rural areas of Cebu and Bohol. Operation Himsog set up CBHPs in urban areas of Cebu and Mandaue Cities. That was in 1985.

Maternal and child health care

In 1987, the VPHCS was born as a non-government institution that implemented both programs which were funded by the CEBEMO and Bread for the World until 1992.

In 1997, the VPHCS started to implement a Women and Child Health Program in four municipalities of Bohol which provided health skills trainings to community health workers (CHWs) and health information, medical and dental services to farmers of the barangays. The Action Solidarite Tiers Monde (ASTM) in Luxembourg funded the project which continued until 2012, covering several municipalities for the past decade.

The projects developed the capacities of CHWs of the people’s organizations in the communities to promote maternal and child health care and respond to the health needs of the residents. The projects also developed the capacities of the community residents to take actions regarding health and related concerns.

The CHWs provided information on family planning and safe motherhood, used simple home remedies such as herbal medicines, acupressure, water therapy and ventusa to treat common health problems, conducted family visits, led community health campaigns on environmental sanitation, nutrition for preschoolers, and herbal gardening, discussed health problems during meetings of the organizations and facilitated treatment of patients in hospitals.

Reproductive health programs

From promoting primary health care programs in Cebu and Bohol provinces since the late 1980s, the VPHCS later expanded its programs to the field of reproductive health.

From April 2002 to March 2005, under a grant of the Ford Foundation, the VPHCS implemented a community-based reproductive health program in Barangays Pasil and Ermita in Cebu City, and four barangays in the municipalities of Ubay and Trinidad in Bohol. The three-year project provided information, education, services and counseling on human sexuality and gender relations, responsible sexual behavior, fertility regulation, safe motherhood, reproductive tract infections and responsible parenthood.

Another project, “Leadership program for reproductive health in the Visayas” was implemented from October 2003 to September 2006. Also funded by the Ford Foundation, it developed a corps of leaders from the academe, mass media, health service providers, local government units, government organizations, non-government organizations, and grassroots people’s organizations and youth groups that organized and empowered their respective sectors, shaped reproductive health education, advocacy and service delivery and influenced local policies toward optimum reproductive well-being of the population in Regions VI, VII and VIII.

The VPHCS was a member of a consortium, Visayas Reproductive Health Initiative (VRHI) that implemented the project. Aside from the VPHCS, the VRHI was composed of the Sociology-Anthropology Research Group (SoARG) of the University of San Carlos, the Media Advocates for Reproductive Health and Empowerment (MARhE) – Bacolod City, and the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines (AMHOP)-Bohol Chapter. The VPHCS worked with grassroots people’s organizations and youth groups.

From July 2006 to 2010, “A Leadership Program for Youth–initiated Adolescent Reproductive Health Advocacy and Services in the Philippines” was implemented, funded by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America – International. With 29 youth partner organizations from selected universities and communities in Cebu, Bohol and Negros Occidental, the project provided information and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services to the youth and developed leadership and life skills among them.

Primary health care programs in Cebu and Bohol

From January 2008 to May 2013, the VPHCS was given funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of the Philippine Congress through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and implemented a project, “Capability Building on Community-Based Health Programs in Cebu”  in  23 poor communities in barangays in Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-lapu City, Talisay City, Minglanilla, Aloguinsan, and Cordova.   The project trained more than 200 community health workers (CHWs) on basic health skills, and provided health education and medical and dental services  to the residents of  the communities.

From March 2008 to December 2010, the VPHCS established partnership with the Asmae-Association Soeur Emmanuelle in France to render financial and technical support to improve the health status of three urban poor communities in Cebu City, Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City. The project consisted of three parts and one project evolved into the second and then into the third. The first project, “Capability Building on Community-based Health Programs in Cebu: Community Diagnosis” in March 2008 to August 2008 was followed by the second project “Promotion of Environmental Health and Child Nutrition in Community-based Health Programs in Cebu and Strengthening the Sustainability Aspect of the VPHCS” in April 2009 to December 2009 and the third project, “Strengthening and Sustaining the Community-based Health Programs in Cebu” in January 2010 to December 2010.”

From April 2010 – March 2013, the VPHCS, with the support of the Asian Community Trust (ACT) based in  Japan implemented a project “Building community-based health programs to promote health and prevent disease in Bohol” in Barangay Sto. Nino in the Municipality of San Miguel and Barangay Caluasan in the Municipality of Dagohoy in Bohol.  The communities were affected by the failure of the Malinao Dam Project which worsened their economic situation that in turn affected their health conditions. .

Health programs including a nutrition program for malnourished children, control of respiratory tract infections, family planning, and herbal medicine were instituted in the project by the trained CHWs together with the  leaders  and members of their organizations.  Two training centers were built to serve as venues where medical check ups, processing of herbal medicine, ventusa, acupressure, meetings and other services are conducted by trained community health workers (CHW). Health services continue today in both barangays.

Environmental health

Expanding primary health care to include environmental sanitation, the VPHCS implemented a project, “Promoting environmental sanitation and solid waste management towards better health” in Barangay Tangke, Talisay City, Cebu on November 2012 to November 2013. It was funded by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE).

Seminars and discussions on solid waste management for the leaders and members of TUFA were conducted after which they launched a campaign on compost making using ordinary household wastes such as kitchen food waste and dried leaves sprayed with indigenous microorganisms (IMO) solution. The compost was later used in vegetable gardens grown.
Trained CHWs in Tangke also delivered basic health services to the residents.

Services for families affected by the Oct. 15, 2013 earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda

In response to the two tragedies that struck the Visayas in 2013, the 7.2 earthquake in Bohol on Oct. 15 and the devastating Typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8, the VPHCS conducted medical missions and psychosocial support services to the families affected by the disasters.

The humanitarian services were supported by the Action Aid based in United Kingdom, the Fil-Am Center for Community Health and Development (FACCHD) based in Pleasanton, California, the Gary King Foundation in Minnesota, U.S.A., and other benefactors. Currently, the VPHCS is extending psychosocial support services to families in the northern part of Cebu with the support of the Terres des Hommes International Federation based in the United Kingdom and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) based in Massachusettes, U.S.A.

Balay Kahimsog

As part of the VPHCS sustainability program is a two-storey Center for Capability-building and Health Development dubbed Balay Kahimsog in Barangay Cambanac in the Municipality of Baclayon, Bohol.  Funded primarily by the Fil-Am Center for Community Health and Development (FACCHD) , based in Pleasanton, California, U.S.A. , it is a resource center for alternative forms of healing like herbal medicine and a center for groups to hold seminars and trainings at a reasonable cost. The funds that the center have generated are used for the various programs of the VPHCS. The first phase of the construction was finished in the first quarter of 2009 and the center has been receiving bookings for seminars since then.

The journey continues

The history of VPHCS has indeed seen many challenges and trials but have been marked more meaningful and memorable with the continued support of the people’s organizations in the communities, its networks and development work organizations, the Board of Trustees, and many CBHP advocates here and abroad.   The VPHCS knows that it shall continue to face more numerous tasks and challenges as the social conditions of the people become more complex and critical.  But then, it believes that the continued support of the people will give it its needed strength and inspiration to go on and carve more pages in the history of the people’s health movement in the Visayas.