The parable of the MHO-A A +A
Monday, September 9, 2013
"MEDICINE is a social science, and politics is nothing more than medicine on a grand scale." This is a profound thought of most accurate and truest wisdom from Dr. Rudolf Virchow.
Rudolf Virchow, a prolific and influential 19th century German physician, pathologist, and anthropologist, is one of the founders of "social medicine." Social medicine unites medical and political thought. In his view, medicine and public health practices, applied politically, could transform society; politics and social systems could have profoundly positive or negative effects on public health; and both the politician and the physician had a moral obligation to heal society (ocp.hul.harvard.edu).
It is because of this analysis that I consider the public health practitioners and the MHO-ship (Municipal Health Officer) as medical specializations of supreme challenge. Specialist physicians who finish after three years of residency training (on the average) may look down on public health as a specialty field. Public health practitioners in the LGUs harp that they also take many residency trainings, also three years (on the average) with every change of term of political leaders. In this perspective, their "residency training" is harder, continuous, contextualized and updated.
While the competencies of hospital-based specialists are honed by their consultant doctor, their patients, and the machines, the MHO’s competencies on the other hand, are amplified by his/her continuing professional education, the consultant and boss mayor, the sangguniang bayan, other LGU offices, the patient AND the community, and the nurses, midwives, medical technicians, dentists, sanitary inspectors, and barangay health workers under her aegis, and all the hounding social determinants of health.
Realizing that politics and public health must congeal to bring forth better health outcomes in our communities, the Department of Health-CAR, the Zuellig Family Foundation, UNFPA and the Benguet State University Open University conducted the first run of the Municipal Leadership and Governance Program (MLGP) here in the Cordilleras. The program which was held from September 3-6 reinforces the passion of the participants- Mayors and the Municipal health Officers (MHO) together with their DOH Representatives- as Bridging Leaders for health. Bridging leaders emphasize ownership, co-ownership and co-creation in their governance framework. Nine municipalities- four from Ifugao and five from Mountain Province- which underwent a Final Selection Workshop made it to the program.
Listening to the mayors present their plans on health and speak like a Municipal Health Officer or a public health specialist was certainly music to our ears. The mayors confidently articulated public health acronyms like FIC (Fully Immunized Child), FBD (Facility-Based Deliveries), mortality and morbidity, and many other medical tongue-twisters. The DOH Representatives were glad with the realizations of the Mayors who are conscious of the six building blocks of the health system. The MHOs were thankful to have shared quality time discussing health of their communities with their Mayor. The Mayors were also pleased and surprised that they stayed throughout the 3 days. Their presence was a manifestation of their commitment to health.
The Mayor, the MHO and the DOH Representatives indeed constitute the “Healthy Trinity” or the health triumvirate in the municipalities. They can rally stakeholders to stimulate a most responsive local health system in their areas.
We congratulate the first batch of MLGP Fellows: Bauko Mayor Abraham Akilit and MHO Dr. Sam Masidong, Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey and MHO Dr. Diga Kay Gomez, Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan and MHO Dr. Irene Limmayog, Sagada Mayor Eduardo Latawan Jr. and Dr. Evelyn Capuyan, and Tadian Mayor Anthony Wooden and MHO Dr. Ruth Ann Balao-as; Aguinaldo Mayor Clemente Talusig and MHO Dr. Virginia Dulnuan; Alfonso Lista Mayor Glenn Prudenciano and MHO Dr. Jeffrey Attolba, Banaue Mayor Jerry Dalipog and MHO Dr. Lorna Baga, and Hungduan Mayor Hilario Bumangabang and MHO Dr. Eric Dugong. Your humility, passion, patience, commitment and brilliance during the course are admirable.
The course is designed as a one-year, two-module health leadership program which is equivalent to 12 academic units leading to a Master in Community Health Development (Leadership and Governance track) conferred by the Benguet State University Open University. The CHD-CAR plans to offer this to all municipalities in the region, beginning with the NAPC areas.
MHO in public health terms means “Municipal Health Officer”. It should also stand for “Mayor Health Officer”. The mayors are the real MHOs with their political clout and leadership on which the devolved health system rests.
Of course, as the training coordinator, I had to take a selfie with these fun-loving Mayor Health Officers!
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 10, 2013.