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Building community-based health programs in Northern Cebu

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More than two years after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, the people in the municipalities in Northern Cebu have reconstructed their houses, revived their agriculture, fishing and other sources of livelihood, and moving on with their lives.

For people in Barangays Paypay and Dalingding Norte, Municipality of Daanbantayan, and Barangay Tindog, Municipality of Medellin, rehabilitation has not only been in the economic field but in health development as well.

Through a project of the Visayas Primary Health Care Services, Inc. (VPHCS) with the support of LandsAid, their people’s organizations, namely, the Nakahiusang Kababayen-an sa Sitio Mayjo (United Women in Sitio Mayjo, Paypay), Nagkahiusang Lumolupyo in Hacienda Gomez (United Residents in Hacienda Gomez, Sitio Gomez, Daliingding Norte, and the Nagkahiusang Lumolupyo in Sitio Manan-aw (United Residents in Sitio Manan-aw, Tindog) are working for the improvement of their health conditions through the primary health care approach.

Today, 10 months since the project started in May 2015, the residents are gradually becoming empowered to take health care in their own hands. Not anymore helpless with their health problems, they practice early seeking health behavior, seek consultation with their trained community health workers (CHWs), practice personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, and apply simple home remedies for common ailments.

The monthly health education classes conducted by the project staff were gatherings where residents shared with one another how they have been able to solve their common health problems as taught to them by their CHWs.

On child health care, the women said that whenever their children came down with cough, colds and fever, they always resorted to the use of lagundi, sambag and kalamansi herbal plants and water therapy as first remedy. Herbal medicine particularly a homemade ointment made of kalachuchi, kalamunggay and panyawan extract in wax are also used as ointment for skin fungal and bacterial infections. These plants are grown in their backyards.

With diarrhea which occasionally occurred in spite of the campaign on proper disposal of garbage and wastes, and proper storage of household water for drinking, the mothers treated their children with homemade oral rehydration salt solution with sugar and salt and encouraged them to drink plenty of fluids in order to prevent them from having dehydration.

On nutrition, mothers shared that in spite of their limited means, they tried to give their children more protein-rich food such as eggs, beans and fish rather than having a diet more of rice and noodles. Children have been weighed and 118 malnourished ones identified in the three barangays. The people’s organizations have started a feeding program to address the problem of malnutrition. More vegetables are now grown in the communal farm in Paypay and the backyards of homes in Tindog and Dalingding Norte.

Hypertensive patients said that they were now more conscious to have their blood pressure taken by the trained CHWs even if they had no symptoms and to buy their medicines which are now very cheap if the government health centers run out of supply.

The trained CHWs also did cupping therapy on patients with muscle aches common after a tired day working in the farms, and acupressure for cough and colds, stomach ache, headache, and body aches. Information materials have also been produced.

Couples desiring to limit and space the number of their children have used the information given by their CHWs on family planning and methods of birth control and are using condoms and pills acquired from their health centers.

From Sitio Mayjo, Paypay, the association has reached out to the barangay proper to serve the residents there. From Sitio Manan-aw, Tindog, the association has gone to Sitio Franco and conducted health services and health education there. And from Sitio Gomez, the association has held clinics and health gatherings in Dalingding Norte barangay proper.

A total of 1,315 residents have attended the health education gatherings. A total of 1,879 patients have been attended to by the 37 trained CHWs during their home visitations and community clinics. These beneficiaries are expected to share the health knowledge and skills that they learned during the services of the CHWs to other residents who may not be seen by them. Thus, a multiplier effect of health awareness and practice spreads in the communities, like a large stone thrown into the sea that creates ripples away.

Indeed, since the project started in May 2015, it has greatly benefitted the residents who are mostly poor farmers in dire need of health services in their rural areas. The active participation of the people’s organizations, their zeal and enthusiasm to be of service to their fellowmen during these difficult times has played a key role in the success of the project.

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